One preseason game down, it's the first alternate helmet week, and the Ravens come to town with a 21-game preseason winning streak, whatever that means. Also, a mailbag. Questions have been edited for length and clarity. As always, you can send in a question for a future mailbag here.
From Matthew Stroh:
"Hey Darren, thank you again for everything you do for us fans. I watched the first preseason game. I thought there was a lot of good. Some not so much. But for first game I think coming out healthy was the best win. I know it's really early in the preseason but do you think our defensive line and OLB can be really good this year? Also, with Kliff's comment on how he likes being able to see more when he isn't calling plays, do you think he will start letting others coaches call plays in the preseason?"
The second part first: No, I think Kliff is going to stick mostly with calling plays. Kyler calling plays is in large part so Murray stays mentally involved in different ways. As for the defensive line and outside linebackers, I thought it was a nice game for guys that they need. But again, the Bengals didn't play anybody really, and preseason -- other than injuries -- usually doesn't mean a ton. You can tell if someone is bad. But it's a lot harder to tell from these games if someone is really good.
From Rich Sousa:
"Dimukeje! I know some people will get hyped on his performance (and rightfully so), but was he going up against CIncy's starting O-line? If so, his night was that more impressive. Also on Dimukeje, Wolf said on the broadcast that Dimukeje reminded him of James Harrison body-wise. Funny thing I was telling my son that Dimukeje reminded me of Greg Townsend body-wise. Either way, if he could repeat one of those guys careers we might have a replacement for Chandler."
No, he was not going against the Bengals' starters so there is a certain grain of salt that must be taken. But I was encouraged with how Dimukeje played and I think it gives hope to what he can contribute. The body type is definitely not of a lean edge guy, but if he can pressure the quarterback, that doesn't matter in the least.
From jpr cards:
"I've noticed that Eno Benjamin was receiving praise from Kliff Kingsbury even well before camp opened and that praise has continued. I am wondering what exactly he did to give the coach confidence that he had made some notable progressions during the offseason? The compliments were rolling in before there could've been much of anything seen on the practice field. Do you think that a part of the coach's complimentary talk might have been put forth as a motivational/confidence builder for Benjamin? Understand I do not mean to imply that it was meaningless hype I am just curious about what Benjamin did in particular to catch the attention of Kingsbury."
Given that a lot of what Kingsbury has talked about with Benjamin has been about professionalism and work ethic, I think that's stuff that can be seen a lot of places aside from the field itself. I don't think there was ever concern about Benjamin's athletic gifts. It was about whether he could mentally put himself together in the right way -- whether that is work ethic, or understanding blitz pickup concepts, etc. So I do think there were plenty of off-field things Kingsbury could be impressed with (along with being up close to where Eno started to where he is now.)
From Dawson Schliz:
"Hey Darren, do you think the Cardinals could use someone like Roquan Smith. And if so, what would they have to give up?"
Could they use a Pro Bowl linebacker? Sure. Do you need to give up draft capital and a giant new contract for an off-ball LB when there are more pressing issues both personnel-wise and contractually? Absolutely not.
From Darrell from Pinetop:
"Just want to say that it's enjoyable to hear Wolfley call games in the preseason. He brings some awesome commentary and some comedic viewpoints as well, especially with some of the back and forth with Pasch. 'Blood Farming' has to be one of my favorite terms to hear in the preseason."
Ahh, the preseason, when Wolf is let loose on an unexpecting national audience. And for the Arizona fans, a chance to see him in nice clothes.
From John Dunne:
"Hey Darren, with a lot of young players in the last year of their contracts, do you think the Cardinals might trade a player or two knowing they probably won't be able to sign them and would benefit from draft capital by trading?"
Could they trade a player? Sure. But because teams can potentially benefit from a free agent lost through the comp pick formula, you have to consider carefully who you deal and what you'd get for them. If a high-profile free agent might leave, you could get a third- or fourth-rounder if they walk. Would you get that in a trade? Also, trading away good players might cost you this season. This isn't the baseball trading deadline. The season hasn't started. You may lose a player after the year, but you likely need them now.
From Caleb Thompson:
"Kyler certainly seems to be disinterested and a terrible teammate for sure in the first preseason game, not engaged at all ...
But what I really wanted to talk about is that, on one of the podcasts, you made the comp of Simmons in his 'star' role to Deone Bucannon in his '$-backer' role. I think this is a great point. Deone played some great ball in his unique role under the DC who created it to showcase his strengths. This has got to be some hope for even the biggest doubters that a talented DC like VJ can deploy a unique player like Simmons in a way that benefits the whole defense."
That's the idea, if putting Simmons in the best spot for him to shine. We will see how it plays out, but I think it's the smartest move. With all due respect to Buc, I think Simmons' chances of meeting that ceiling is higher. (And on that first one, remember to use the sarcasm font next time.)
From Charles Hunt:
"HI Darren. Big fan of your articles, thanks for all the insight! I'm a big fan of Andy Isabella, I think when he is given a REAL chance he is going to be a very difficult receiver to cover. With that said, I think it's time for the Cards to let him go. He is clearly playing out of position. He only runs slants and Go routes. I've watched tape on him and he is really shifty, and when he gets with a team and they use him like Hunter Renfrow or Colt Beasley he will do great."
I'm not sure what happens with Isabella at the end of the preseason, nor if it is simply the need of a new situation or if he will just struggle on this level. I find it hard to believe the Cardinals wouldn't have seriously considered that part of his game when trying to find a spot for him.
From Jeremy Fehr:
"Hey there, I have a bunch of questions.
- What do you make of all the talk about Kyler Murray's stats dropping every year after the new 'Call of Duty' game comes out?
- Do you think Kyler's hand injury could be E-sports related?
- What is your take on Zaven Collins' play in that first preseason game?
- Do you think Andy Isabella will get a roster spot?
- From what you have seen, how intense would you rate training camp to be under Kliff Kingsbury?"
I have a bunch of answers.
- My son graduated with a degree in statistics. His reaction when the "stats" of Murray and CoD were first raised: "Statistical bias." I asked him to explain. I'm not going to post his entire answer, but essentially, they only used stats that fit the narrative. It factored in no football relevance (opponent, injuries, etc.) "They just extrapolated the data they wanted to prove their point, but it doesn't tell the whole story."
- I wish he made an impact play or two. The bar is higher for him than most young players. May not be fair. But it's true.
- It's going to be close with the way Dortch is playing. With Hopkins' suspension, though, they may need to keep him.
- They clearly are being careful with veterans. The one thing Covid rules taught everyone is that you probably don't need as much camp work for most players. Health remains the most valuable thing to get out of camp, in my opinion.
From Lane Kidd:
"Watching NFL Network, all NFL teams are holding practices outside. The Saints even practiced in the rain. Arizona is stifling hot, but have the Cardinals worked outside? Do you think that practicing in the elements makes any difference for game preparation?"
The Cardinals have not practiced outside for a couple of years. They used to have a couple of practices outside in the heat, but it seems foolish to put a body through that. When the Cardinals were in Flagstaff, they were outside in beautiful weather most of the time (and went inside if it was raining.) What makes a difference in game preparation is ... the real game preparation. And your roster talent. Not the practice conditions.
From Connor Rogotzke:
"Hey Darren, thank you for all the time you put into the mailbag. I am a huge fan of Byron Murphy and think he will make another leap into a potential star this season. What do you see in his development so far and will he be the No. 1 corner and follow the opposing No. 1 WR? Also love the trust it seems Vance Joseph is putting in Isaiah Simmons. What effect do you think that role for Simmons will play on the pass coverages that Joseph deploys? Thank you for the time and effort!"
Murphy isn't going to be a guy who follows receivers for the most part. I think they will build a defense that handles sides. I do think there is a chance he plays some slot, but until they figure out who the cornerbacks will be, I think Murphy's ultimate role is TBD. As for Simmons, I just think it means Simmons might slip into coverage a little more often than in the past, in part because you can disguise what you are doing down to down that way, given Simmons' flexibility.
From Cole Nave:
"What is the nature of Trey McBride's back injury? As a dude with a wonky back myself, that's just one of those things that you live with. I'd assume the team is comfortable with it that they drafted him. But back problems are always rough in sports."
I don't think this is a chronic situation. It's something that came up in camp and I don't think anyone is concerned about it's long-term effects.
From Chris Breezy:
"Hi Darren. I understand why the punter and kicker are different positions. No need to get into that. But it becomes silly when we start talking about running backs and offensive linemen getting reps to find an emergency backup kicker. IT'S THE PUNTER! IS IT NOT? And vice versa. The backup kicker is the punter. If that's not the case, why not? I've been to practice. These guys stand around A LOT. Prater and Lee have all the time in the world to practice punting/kicking in emergency situations."
I'm going to disagree from the standpoint that punting and kicking are totally different skills. It's a lot easier as a kicker to punt -- and I would guess Prater would punt if Lee got hurt -- but kicking is nothing like punting. Many teams have a non-punter as emergency kicker. Ask Justin Reid.
From Michael Ward:
"What do you think are the best seats at State Farm Stadium? Not necessarily the most expensive but the best for viewing the plays as they progress. Thanks."
Other than sitting in the auxiliary press seats during a Super Bowl, I have never sat in the stadium anywhere to watch a game. I'm always in the press box. So that isn't a question I can answer. I'd have to put it out for the readers.
From Robert Malicki:
"Darren, what's your take on the surprising Aaron Rodgers revelation of his partaking of conscious-altering substances for an NFL player? Sidestepping most of the argument I'll focus on just two issues. First, how will the league office address this and how the NFLPA views it? Players can be substantially penalized for seemingly using performance enhancing substances but it's OK to be a 'day tripper?' And, secondly, does Aaron or any player discard how their behavior influences kids and teenagers? The NFL purports itself as the proper image for fans of clean competition, professionalism and fair play. How can it not publicly address this issue?"
To start with, it's not against the NFL's (or NFLPA's) rules, so there is that. When he used it, he was in a country where it was legal. So beyond that? I'm not sure what is supposed to happen. As for players "discarding" how they influence kids, I mean, I get it but I also kind of see that as a parenting issue. You can't demand a player -- or anyone -- be a good role model. You'd hope, but you can't make them.
From Rory Driver:
"Hey Darren, any updates or new insights regarding Leki Fotu's weight? It was pointed out how slim he looked in the offseason. Is he still looking trim to you? If so, does that indicate he will be a DT moreso than a NT? I know you mentioned the D is looking more 4-3 oriented this year, than in years past. That might be the explanation right there. Thanks."
No update. Fotu is playing in the same spot he always has. He just said he wanted to eat better. It's not like he's a small man. But next time I get a chance to talk to him, I'll get some details.
From Julius Krawiec:
"With the new helmet rule, do you think that the NFL will be more lenient on uniforms in the future? ( i.e team-colored visors, more alternate uniforms.) Just something to let the players express themselves. Still keep the uniformity just a little less restrictive."
Honestly, I have no desire to see more alternate uniforms. I think what college does right now is ridiculous much of the time. I'd like one main color, one alternate and one throwback in the NFL. And I think two helmets, to be able to be worn with every version of the uniform. Do I think the NFL will get crazy and take off all the rules? No.