The Cardinals reach the end of their NFC West three-games-in-four-weeks stretch with a visit to Seattle this week, trying to recapture some of the play that they have been missing of late. Let's talk about some of that in a mailbag, shall we? Questions have been edited for length and clarity. You can send in a question for a future mailbag here.
From Sebas Quiros:
"Hey Darren. What do you think is at fault for the Cardinals' second-half woes? You of course need to think that coaches need to coach better BUT I also think that a part of the problems is that we simply have a lack of talent. My second question has to do with player usage. Sometimes I feel like Rondale Moore is just average and I feel like Greg Dortch, when he's gotten the chance, almost always he has explosive plays and great play in general. And Michael Wilson, arguably one of our top three playmakers, has gotten two targets last week and four this week? What is this about?"
When a team is struggling like this, there are usually a lot of places to point to for improvement. And yes, I am sure the coaches can do more. But I have long subscribed to the saying "It's not the x's and o's, it's the jimmys and joes." The roster needs to be upgraded. The players they have are all cultural and effort fits, but talent matters too. As for the wide receivers, Wilson played as many snaps as Hollywood. Finding him targets has been an issue. I get it. But he's on the field. Then it comes down to how plays develop. With Dortch, the reality is this is now the second coaching staff that has relegated him to backup status. For whatever reason, he hasn't earned time over Moore. I don't see that changing.
From Jason B:
"There have been some good aspects with the new staff, but we seem to still be having the same old problems. Why? We have had six winnable games, we have blown halftime leads in three of them to the point we could easily be 4-2 or 5-1. After every game we hear the same lines that Kingsbury gave: 'We need to coach better.'"
Let's not get over our skis now. This team could've beaten Washington. It should've beaten the Giants. That's 3-3. The Rams game was winnable but "easily" a win? No. Games aren't 30 minutes long and the Rams wrested control of that game five minutes into the third quarter. I know fans hate to hear a coach say, "we need to coach better" but no coach (unless his name is Arians) usually will throw a player under the bus publicly. And truthfully, that answer isn't wrong either. Look, there are three overarching ways a team loses, and I've long said this: either it is coaching (scheme, discipline), talent (or lack thereof), or effort. It can be a combo platter. But it's not hard to figure out on a macro-level. This team gives good effort IMO. I think the coaching is learning on some levels, but as I mentioned before, I want to see what this all looks like with a talent upgrade.
From jpr cards:
"With the losses mounting and the injuries beginning to pile up I am wondering, does that impact the timetable at all for Kyler Murray's return? I am assuming that it does not. But I am wondering are the coaching staff and front office looking at his return as a sort of audition in order to keep the starting job or are they looking at it as he is their QB1 and he just needs to get comfortable running this new offense?"
Nothing has changed from my opinion that both Kyler and the organization need to have him on the field this season to see what that looks like, for all the reasons you give and more. If nothing else you wouldn't want him waiting all the way until 2024 to test the knee again. To me, you can get that sense if he plays anywhere from four to six games, and if he can play more, great. Ultimately, though, I think Jonathan Gannon is on the money when he talks timetable -- which is Kyler and his health dictates that. He's ready when he's ready. If he's not ready, you can't put him out there. Period.
From Bob Kitsos:
"Thanks for your continuing work with the mailbag. It's a great read. We're getting beat up on defense with that under-the-coverage 10-12-yard pass and it doesn't appear that we're making any game adjustments. Why?"
I do think the Cardinals are trying to adjust. However, let's talk this through. The Cardinals have had issues getting to the quarterback. In that case, you probably would prefer to give cushion than to play press and get beat deep while the QB has time to wait for the receiver to clear.
From Jimmy Anderson:
"Hi Darren. I've been enjoying your snap count story articles and if I were to generalize, there seems to be a rotation with the defensive line group and the linebackers (except for Kyzir White), but there are more players in the secondary playing all or nearly all the snaps. I'm not sure how 'normal' this is (I know if you have a Baker and Thompson they are not coming out at all if you can help it), but just wondering if the backups like Clark or Hamilton should be on more of a rotation, or is there no depth there? One other observation is Zaven Collins has played about 40-50 percent of the defensive snaps this year. I saw an article from last year where it was reported that Collins played 362 snaps in the first six games. I couldn't find an exact count of snaps per game, but by my count, it seems like he's played around 225 this year. Should he be playing more?"
Generally, the top three or four secondary guys play the vast majority of snaps. That's not unusual at all. And yes, depth is the reason. Usually, when you have two top cornerbacks, they have proven why they should be out there. Most of the time, there is a dropoff on the depth chart. As for Collins, he is literally playing a different position this season, moving from inside linebacker to outside linebacker. That, along with how this coaching staff likes to use a rotation on the outside, is the reason for Collins' change.
From Mike Wilson:
"Hi Darren. I don't know if you tune into the local sports radio when you landed Sunday but there's a growing conspiracy theory that the Cardinals want to sit Kyler all season. Reasons unknown. Some speculate it's to retain his trade value. Maybe so, maybe not. IF the Cardinals were planning to sit Kyler, it would fail completely."
Kyler isn't sitting the whole season. And he was never going to.
From D Williams:
"Hey Darren. I was wondering if you believe there might be a chance of signing few known veterans, particularly on defense, considering injuries at D-line and the secondary? I've noticed a few teams going to the pool recently to fill holes. There are still some quality players out there and I know we still have a bit of cap space we can use.
- CB - Byron Jones, William Jackson, Kyle Fuller, PJ Williams, Greedy Williams
- DL - Michael Brockers, Akiem Hicks, Tyler Davison, Linval Joseph
Thanks for all you do."
I do not. Unless there are even more injuries, I think the Cardinals will want to try younger players in the lineup than fetch guys at the end of their career. Which, considering where this team is right now, is the right decision in my opinion.
From Beto Gurney:
"I don't want to defend Clark by tearing down Marco, but it's bull for JG to claim performance for Clark's benching, considering Marco is statistically the worst cornerback in the NFL. With that said, I think a portion of that has been killer matchups. He's faced some of the best WRs in the NFL this year, no doubt roasts will occur. So I actually have no worries about Marco. But DO NOT bench Clark, arguably our best CB this year, for performance if you don't do the same for Marco."
First, it doesn't work that way. They don't measure up the two and say, "we need to bench one cornerback, so it'll be the lowest-rated." They are looking at Clark and saying, "this needs to happen right now." It has nothing to do with Wilson or any other DB -- other than they feel other DBs might play better right now. I'm also trying to figure out how you would have a better sense of whether a player should lose playing time right now than a coaching staff around him every day? Unfortunately for Clark, his play has statistically regressed of late too.
From Pablo Vallarta:
"Under the context that he's a sixth-round rookie, Kei'Trel Clark has been pretty fantastic. So JG isnt fooling any fans by saying he was benched for performance reasons. We are far too aware of Clark's excellent performance thus far to believe that. So what's going on?"
I too thought Clark had a nice start. But "under the context he's a sixth-round rookie?" What does that mean? If a sixth-round rookie gives up a 40-yard bomb, they don't then back it up 20 yards and say, "Well, he was a sixth-rounder -- if it had been against a first-rounder the receiver would've gotten all 40 yards." Draft status is for the outside to have fun with, and, yes, if you find a player in the sixth round, it's nice. But there are no qualifiers on the field.
From Joe Cardera:
"Darren, with you a staff member I understand this question can be tricky. So here goes. Who is next in line to succeed Michael Bidwill? Do you think new ownership would come from selling the team? I like the job he's done since taking over."
All I have heard is that, after the passing of Bill Bidwill, there is a plan in place as the family moves forward with ownership in the future. I don't know what that is. I do know that Michael Bidwill is proud that this franchise has been in his family for such a long time and he has no plans of it going to anyone else.
From Richard Harris:
"At the beginning of the season, people were saying the Cardinals would tank the season. But the players are playing hard. It does seem like the defense tanks in the second half. Could the coaches be causing that?"
Not sure exactly what you are asking. Is the implication that the coaches, trying to help a tank, are messing with the second-half defense? No, that is most certainly not happening.
From Jayson Wing:
"There hasn't been any mention of Clayton Tune starting any games before Kyler Murray returns. Does Gannon continue to stay with Dobbs until Murray's return? If so, how do Cardinals evaluate what Tune can do or when, if ever, will Tune get a chance to start? Also, I wanted you to pass along a message to Kent Somers.
Hello Kent. How's 'retirement?' The key is not to completely stop what you have been doing the past 20-25 years, but do as you are: writing a column once or twice a week. Been a fan of yours in print and on the radio, I even bought your book about the Cardinals and enjoyed reading again about those great stories. Keep writing and l look forward to your storytelling."
Man, even Kent has fans out here. As for Tune, I don't know if he gets a chance to start. It may hinge on how much longer Kyler is out -- but will I be surprised if Tune sits his whole rookie season? No I will not.
From Stevie Henderson:
"Is it my imagination or have the Cardinals lost their edge since they stopped wearing the all-red uniforms? Just joking (sort of) but whether it is luck, superstition or too many injuries to sustain effective play through the fourth quarter, they don't seem to be the same team from the first few games. I do love the hard play and don't-quit attitude. Just hope it can be sustained for 11 more games since there is no guarantee Kyler will be the same player when he returns."
C'mon Stevie, you know I don't do superstition. I really don't do uniforms making a difference, although I'm trying not to tear up having a uniform question for the walk-off in the mailbag once again. It's been too long.