The Cardinals are coming off a disappointing preseason showing against the Chiefs -- that's true. We'll see what the plan will be against the Saints on Saturday in the preseason finale. As you can imagine, the questions this week reflect the hard feelings of the fanbase. We'll have to wait until Sept. 12 to see if the performance ultimately matters. In the meantime, feel free to send along a question for a future mailbag:
From Robert Malicki:
"How do you think NFL owners will address the exhibition schedule? Coaches are all over the map in choosing who to play and what they want to learn. Young players like Kyler who are lukewarm on playing and the NFLPA will have a big say on this issue. Up to now the owners keep all the revenue from these games and having scrimmages is inadequate at best. Secondly, this rule change protecting offensive players outside the tackle box from being blocked below the waist is a sham. Defensive players are becoming too hamstrung in challenging an offense. The game has already become too college-like and horizontal in its playcalling. Just widen the hashmarks. That will restore balance and excitement in playcalling and scoring without forcing officials to micro-manage infractions."
I don't think the owners are going to do anything to address the preseason right now -- unless the players agree to an 18-game regular season, allowing the preseason to be cut to two games. There will always be 20 games. It's just a question of how many will count in the standings. I get what you are saying about young players, and each team will have to determine playing time. The only say the NFLPA is really going to have is, again, do you allow another game that counts?
As far as the rules, we've all seen that a) they are going to continue to change rules to hopefully avoid certain injuries, and also to help the offense. That isn't changing either.
From Boston Mike:
"Kyler Murray getting voted No. 39 on the top 100 list doesn't help us one bit. In fact it further hurts us. It perpetuates this fallacy that he's arrived and he's a franchise QB. He doesn't need preseason reps. He's a superstar! Did you see him on Friday? LIGHTS OUT! Ignoring the ineptness of the offense last season, did you see how deadly his checkdowns were? Look out folks."
I see you're going with sarcasm right now instead of outright anger. In the case of the top 100, I don't understand how that changes anything -- Murray's confidence in himself doesn't change because of a ranking. I mean, he made clear what he thought of the preseason before that ranking came out. Does he need to play better? Of course. Might he benefit more from preseason work that he thinks? Perhaps. But the NFL 100 list isn't impacting any of that.
From Owen O:
"What's the explanation for why our offense was so bad Friday? Was it the OL? Was it the WRs? Was it Kyler? I'm watching other teams starters move the ball with vanilla plays. Why not us? Also, why did they pull Kyler so early? Only three awful series? What a terrible way to go into Week 1 if that's the last we see of Kyler. Also, 'it's just preseason, it doesn't matter' does not inspire confidence. As Bill Belichick would say 'Way to compete....' Every time we play it matters. Kyler going 0-for-whatever matters."
I think there is a happy medium between treating the preseason like the regular season and not caring at all. To be honest, while Murray was strong in his comments last week, he also said he is very much competing when he is actually on the field. I don't think he and the offense played poorly because they were not trying at all. What happened Friday exactly, I don't know. Take the first third-down misfire -- Rondale Moore read zone defense on the play, Kyler read man-to-man, and if they complete that pass, we perhaps have a totally different conversation happening. I was a little surprised Murray came out of the game after nine plays, but with all the plays the Chiefs got, time-wise maybe that was just the plan. It's going to make the play-time choices for the Saints intriguing.
From Zack Maus:
"Hey Urbz, been a minute since I submitted one of these. I miss Kyle already, can't wait to see who you guys bring in and as long as you're around we're good! But I digress. Run up the middle, screen pass, incomplete pass, and punt. I think I got it! Can I be coach for a week?"
I gotta say, Zack, I get your sarcasm as well, and of course we will see when the regular season starts but I can't get all emotional about preseason playcalling. If there is anything Kliff has shown, it's that he's not doing much in these games that don't count. But I appreciate the compliment and Kevin Parrish Jr. -- the new "Kyle" -- will be arriving just in time for the regular season.
From Bill Thompson:
"Darren, I know that Justin Pugh was out, but I wasn't happy with the O-line against the Chiefs. What about you? I caught a peek of 'Knee-deep' on a Chris Jones sack. Humphries looked like a matador as Jones brushed him aside. Just wondering what other people thought? It is not easy to watch line play when there is so much chatter and other stuff going on during the broadcast. Humphries seemed not too concerned in his presser! Very pleased with Collins and Benjamin to mention two! Do you see Isabella making this team? And to think that we could have had D. K. Metcalf! Thanks!"
Humphries had a bad play. But in terms of him, no, I don't have any concern. He played very well last year. No one on the offense played well, so I don't know what other to say than that. As for Isabella, I do think he makes the team, but I guess I won't be stunned if he does not.
From Annette Williams:
"I see that there are gates around the great lawn, will we still be able to tailgate On The great lawn? Also would like to know what the new building is going to be out on the great lawn, if you are able to provide this. Thank you!"
Yes, tailigating will still be allowed and nothing really changes other than there are entry points where people have to bring their stuff instead of just having the entire length of the Great Lawn to unload wherever you want. As for the building, I would think some kind of official announcement will be made sooner rather than later.
From Tom Cowley:
"Hello Darren. Last preseason game coming up. The last game was a flop. What does management do with the no-shows for this preseason, i.e. the defensive linemen -- not the injured or Covid-19 guys, I mean the goldbricks who God only knows what is their injuries. These no -shows will not be ready for this season opener or whenever. Keim/ Kingsbury must act now to fish or cut bait regarding these players status/availability or we will be three-and-out in September. Thoughts?"
I mean, the defensive linemen, as far as I know, are hurt. The reality is for many of these guys, we don't know anything about what is keeping them out, because Kliff Kingsbury will not say. To assume they are "goldbricks" I think it's a pretty big leap. I can't say for sure, of course, but the team knows what the deal is and I am sure they would take such things into account.
From Nate Black:
"Thoughts on preseason game No. 2:
- Kyler needs to play game three. That was so bad. And more of the same from last season.
- Zaven Collins looks like he is finally the LB they've been looking for.
- Probably Isaiah Simmons best game overall.
- Marco Wilson is officially a keeper. Good cornerback play last week and good special teams play this week.
- Christian Kirk making it real hard on himself. I know you said Rondale wouldn't supplant him. I'm not so sure.
- Do my eyes betray me, or did Rodney Hudson sit some reps with Kyler still out there? Is he injured?
- And lastly, Leki Fotu. I just don't see it. Are you certain he makes the team? He reminds me of less talented Alameda Taamu."
Hudson isn't injured and he played nine snaps -- the same as Kyler. I don't see Kirk being supplanted, not early. You never know what will happen as the season plays out. As for Fotu, they knew he was rough around the edges when he was drafted. I do think he makes the team, and I don't think it's particularly that close.
From Cameron Clark:
"Hey Darren. I guess I'm a little confused about Byron Murphy. In the offseason, its seems like Kliff, Vance, Byron and even yourself here and there have discussed how Byron was going back to his ideal position, as the slot CB. And yet here we are in August. Vance talking about 'Byron is the No. 1 CB,' and it sure looks like he's lining up at outside CB. So what happened to the plan to put him in the slot?"
Murphy is going to do both. And things change. He has grown as a player, and shown he can be effective outside. It'll depend on what the matchups are. Again, players can improve, and that's what has happened here. I don't think it's really anything to be confused about.
From Josh M:
"Hey Darren. First time submission to the mailbag. I wonder about the seemingly mixed messages that are sent when the Coach and others talk about bringing in all these vets for leadership -- Watt being the obvious example -- yet they seem to be keeping them out of practice when I would think they need this time to REALLY start to gel. It's one thing to give pointers in shorts and a T-shirt than to really grind it through with them. Also, holding out so many in games with a scared mentality reminds me when Bruce Arians did so once and they got off to a terrible start. Thoughts?"
I don't know if there is any one answer in terms of playing or not in the preseason. Honestly, I don't know there is a lot of correlation. I think every player is different. Whether Kyler or Watt or A.J. Green or Christian Kirk play well or poorly in preseason doesn't seem to guarantee anything. I do think the preseason is good for the inexperienced -- Collins, Simmons, for example -- or guys trying to make the roster. I would think as a player you'd want at least some reps. But again, I don't know if there is any concrete proof it matters or not. As for the leadership, it's a fair point, but again, if a guy is hurt, he's hurt.
From Brad Cain:
"Hi Darren, my question is with Larry saying he might have the urge later on, are the Cardinals leaving the door open for him throughout the season?"
The door will be open. Can you imagine Fitz saying he wants back and then the Cards say no? That said, I think you are taking an incredibly optimistic view of Fitz's comments.
From Matthew Chadduck:
"I know you need at least one Fitz submission every week, so here's mine: In the very specific scenario where we make playoffs (yay!) and also have a serious injury to a starting receiver (expletive!) What do you think are the chances of Larry Legend lacing up the cleats for one final playoff run?"
Tough break Matthew, Brad beat you to it. But if Fitz saying everything he is about needing to embrace the process to chase the Lombardi Trophy -- which he wouldn't really be doing with a midseason return, I wouldn't think -- I believe that's a long shot. Never say never, and if there were an injury, I suppose the idea will pop up. But I'm having a very difficult time seeing Fitz miss camp and, what, on month? Two months? And then coming back, getting back to being in football shape and prepared to play heavy snaps. I don't think Fitz wants to be the fourth or fifth receiver -- which is usually what a midseason replacement would be brought in to be.
From Dan Marks:
"Let's mix the bag up and get away from preseason speculation. I saw some criticism of Vance Joseph in here recently and it got me thinking how underrated good coaching is. In your opinion, who is the most underrated coordinator or position coach you've seen come through the organization? I don't think Ray Horton gets enough credit, personally."
I think Horton did a very good job, and it's too bad that the offense/quarterback situation was so sideways when he was around that you couldn't really tell. He is a good choice. Teryl Austin was a really good DB coach and later was a DC. And I always thought Jerry Sullivan, when he was wide receivers coach back in the day in his first stint, was really good for bad teams.
From Jason Beckum:
"What are your thoughts on Andy Isabella's chances of making the the 53-man roster? If the best ability is availability, he has not been around due to COVID. What would you do if you were GM would you keep him around on the active roster or practice squad, or would you trade him to another team where he may still be worth a 5th-7th round pick."
I think I want to see what Isabella does the balance of camp, and hopefully in the game against the Saints. I don't think he's making it through waivers for the practice squad; someone would grab him. I have not changed my mind -- unless he is really bad this week, I think he has another year on the roster.
From Bill Leyland:
"Darren, I LOVE watching the video interviews of the players and coaches, but for years now I get really frustrated by hardly hearing, or not hearing the interviewer at all. You can hear the player/coach, but it's hard to follow the answers when you can't hear the questions. Do you know why, and how could that be fixed? Thanks!"
We have tried to make that a little better, but given the nature of the press conferences, both how they unfold (questions from everywhere) and where they are located, I don't know it it will be much better than it is now. Zoom obviously changed the equation because it was so clear on both ends. But unless we had extra people using a boom mic or using hand-held microphones -- which isn't feasible -- clear audio always will be difficult.
From Mark Hogan:
"Hi Darren. Have a handful of questions. Thanks in advance.
- Reading about Rondale Moore's progress gives me rookie-David-Johnson vibes. Right down to depth ahead of him. But does he pass Paul Calvisi's test -- when players get out of their seats to watch the blossoming star in preseason action?
- Lot of talk about third-year jumps. Byron Murphy suddenly seems on the cusp of one. Do you expect a more noticeable jump from him or Kyler Murray?
- Players and coaches like to say Week 1 is their focus. So do you think there's a benefit to the added emphasis they'll give a bruiser like Derrick Henry? (I'd have thought more attention would be given to passing defense in the offseason otherwise.) Big year for the run defense as things stand; Dalvin Cook, Nick Chubb, Aaron Jones and dare I say Jonathan Taylor on the horizon too.
- Want to mention Kyle Odegard's name just to see it part of an article one more time. Thanks Kyle."
- You'd have to ask Paul, but I think there are plenty of vets impressed with Moore at this point.
- If Murray makes a jump, his will be the most noticeable of all. This team needs a jump like that from Kyler, in my opinion.
- I mean, you practice for it all. Derrick Henry won't be the reason you lose if you lose to the Titans. Not being able to do some damage against an average defense, or not being able to slow Julio Jones and A.J. Brown, to me, are more crucial than Henry.
- Thanks Kyle.
From Murray Fan:
"Hi Darren. I noticed in the preseason game against the Chiefs that Kyler Murray changed his cadence before the snap. He used to say 'One-One' or 'Two-Two' before the snap, which I loved and thought was very unique. It appears now he's saying something else (Play 80?), I guess my question is why? Why did they (I assume it was the coach's decision and not Kyler's) decide to change his cadence? Maybe this is just for preseason? I really liked hearing his 'One-One' before the snap, as he was the only one in the league to do that and I am sad to see it go. :( Thanks! Go Cards!"
Gotta say this is a weird one. Didn't know anyone would be sad about a cadence. (I hope you are the one that tweeted me about this too; if not, I'm a little vexed that there would be two people thinking/pondering/worrying about this.) I have to admit, I do not know.
From Dhruvraj Parmar:
"Thanks for the mailbag Darren. I see a pattern of stretching the offense horizontally with screens/jet sweeps from last year games and this first preseason game with Moore. Have you noticed increased frequency of such plays in practice sessions too? Seem to work sometimes and backfire often last year. Also are you going to be on any golf cart rides with Lisa? I am sure mailbag readers would love to see Darren being interviewed too or do you just not trust her driving?"
Well, Dhruvraj, the Kliff Kingsbury offense has had a lot of horizontal in it since he arrived. That hasn't changed, and we will see if it can be more effective. Moore is going to be a big part of the offense, and yes, jet sweeps and screens I am guessing will be part of it. Now, will they also figure in pre-snap motion more often? That's something to watch.
As for Lisa, I am not sure if you saw, but she has left the job, much to my chagrin. Would I have been willing to do a ride along? I don't know if I fully trusted her driving-while-interviewing style, but I suppose it's better than texting while driving. Alas, I never got an invite.