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You've Got Mail: Seahawks Week, Part One

Topics include talent on the roster, defensive issues and even free agency

AZC_CardinalsMailbag

The Cardinals are still seeking their first victory, coming off a disappointing home game against the Panthers. But before they take on the Seahawks at home this week -- as Carson Palmer is inducted into the Ring of Honor -- I'll answer some questions. As always, you can send questions for next week's mailbag by clicking here.

Yes, Kingsbury said he would have to adapt to the NFL. But you seem to have that confused with changing his offense. When Kingsbury talked about adapting, it had (and has) to do with learning how things fit with the narrower hashmarks, or working with fewer possessions. But if people are waiting for him to suddenly using a lot of 11 and especially 12 personnel, that's not going to happen. The Cardinals are going to run shotgun, and a lot of 10 personnel, and they want the running game to stem from that.

From Punchy Juan via azcardinals.com:

"Hey D! You bet I'll ask a 2020 draft question. We all remember the Levi Brown-over-Adrian Peterson catastrophe. Best Player Available is usually the way to go. But does there come a point (and are we at that point) where we must fix the offensive line under any means necessary? Say taking a B+ OL over an A+ WR?"

Well, didn't you answer your own question? Levi Brown was going to be a top 10 pick that year regardless, and he was the second-best tackle. But the Cards felt they needed to fix the OL in 2007 under any means necessary. So they passed on Peterson. So if you're OK with it in 2020, you have to be OK with it in 2007, don't you? Because the real answer is you want a guarantee. The Cardinals drafted Jonathan Cooper in the first round. They drafted D.J. Humphries in the first round. Those guys have not been what was hoped, but the Cards were trying to fix the OL that desperately needed help. I'm not arguing that the offensive line shouldn't be addressed or that it doesn't need quality infusion from the draft. But next year, if the Cards took a "B+" lineman, if he becomes a Levi Brown -- who did start for a Super Bowl team and was fine that year -- is that good enough?

From Robert Malicki via azcardinals.com:

"Heading into Week 3 one-fourth of NFL starting QBs beginning this season are unavailable to their teams. Our division has yet to be affected but coaches have to be skittish now. How are the Cardinals sitting with Brett Hundley if Kyler Murray goes down? Would we be as greatly affected in our QB play with our new offense?"

With all due respect to Hundley, he's not Kyler Murray. Of course it would impact the offense on a large scale, I'd think. Hundley definitely isn't the runner Murray is. I do think Hundley is comfortable in Kliff's offense; he's said many times it is the offense he has been in in the past and he likes it a lot. But like any team without it's (healthy) starter, it's tougher when the backup is in -- Kyle Allen notwithstanding.

From Sidney Sexson via azcardinals.com:

"Darren, as always thanks for taking the time to answer our questions and impart your knowledge of the game and what you see with the team. I really like what I see with Kyler's progression the first two games but I am very surprised that he has not run more. In your opinion do you think he is being overly cautious?"

Sidney's question arrived before Sunday's game, so obviously Murray ran a lot more against the Panthers. I wasn't sure about him being cautious ahead of time, but Kingsbury ended up calling a lot more runs against the Panthers and I think that also might've made Murray a little more comfortable to scramble more too. Now, I do think Murray is going to have to find a happy medium between running and not taking off too often -- I thought there were moments Sunday when he might've just hung in a tad longer (or thrown the ball away) rather than trying to scramble. He had a couple of sacks when he started to take off.

From Rojo Jones via azcardinals.com:

"Hi Darren. Can you please tell us who was playing right tackle on the two touchdown drives? Or did they rotate during the drives?"

Jordan Mills was the right tackle for the entirety of both those drives.

From Bart Weismueller Jr. via azcardinals.com:

"Thank you for the mailbag. I want to talk 2020 free agency. We have money to spend, and spend we will. FYI, the two best FA classes happen to be interior OL (OG) and DL. The OGs are Brandon Scherff (Wash) and Joe Thuney (NE). The DLs are Chris Jones (KC) and Grady Jarrett (ATL). We can afford one of both. We've never been that HUGE FA splash from the team. Buying up a guy on a 100M deal. However that might change. What are your thoughts regarding the 2020 FA period and do you see us dipping our toes into the deep waters and cutting some BIG BIG checks?"

Truth be told, I don't have many thoughts on free agency next offseason with specific players. Too far out.

  1. There is so much time between now and March some and maybe all of these guys have a chance to sign extensions and they'll never hit the market.
  2. Defensive line is an area of need. Offensive line, it's a tackle (or two) they need. On the inside, I don't see them paying big money for a guard, not with Pugh and Sweezy still under contract and a belief that Galliard can be a solid pro. If they spend, I'd think it'll be for a tackle.
  3. This team needs a pass rusher going forward to pair with Chandler Jones. Maybe that's free agency, maybe the draft. I don't know if they're getting "splashy" with an interior lineman.

Offensively, I thought the Cardinals were fine against the Panthers until late, and the game got sideways. But if they have 20 points halfway through the third quarter every game, they really should be OK. Defensively they were terrible, but I agree, they were competitive the first couple of weeks. Are the Cardinals good? I think that would've been asking a lot with a rookie QB and a first-year coach in a spot where there is rebuilding to do on the roster. There is a difference between being good and being competitive. To me, a good team has a good chance to get a playoff berth. I'm not sure the Cards were ever in that spot. There are areas that need improvement on the roster.

From Rod McCall via azcardinals.com:

"Rough day at the office this week, huh. Well, we always knew this would be a rebuild year. Question regarding the Ramsay rumors. I don't think it'll happen, but the better question at this point is: Do you trade our 2020 1st for Ramsay (a sure-thing star) or keep the 2020 first-round pick and assume the risk that no draft pick is a sure thing?"

But that's not the only question when it comes to trading for any established star. You are correct, you would know that star is already good and it is a crapshoot to draft a kid. But there is also cost certainty with the draft pick over a number of years, whereas the star needs a new, giant contract. This isn't about being cheap either. Obviously you have to pay some players big money, and maybe whomever you trade for is worth it. Also, you are assuming a single first-round pick is getting you the player. I do not think that'd be the case.

From Oscar Madera via azcardinals.com:

"Hola Darren. Ninguno de los mejores equipos de "puntaje alto" usa el tempo alto. Usan el diseño del juego. La rápida non-huddle no parece estar funcionando. ¿Deberíamos parar? Vimos tarde que muchos WR estaban en la página equivocada. ¿Demasiado rápido tal vez? Gracias."

No sé si diría que ninguno de los buenos equipos va más rápido. Los Jefes lo hacen en ocasiones, al igual que los Rams. Vi a los Browns hacerlo un poco. No es exactamente raro. Independientemente de los problemas que hayan tenido las Cartas en la ofensiva, no creo que ir demasiado rápido sea uno de ellos. De hecho, creo que les ha ayudado.

From P.B. via azcardinals.com:

"Hi Darren, do you think that moving around the secondary is a must for the Cards at this point? Tight ends have been a thorn in the side for them this year and clearly the mix of Hasson Reddick and D.J. Swearinger guarding tight ends haven't worked. I think that moving Murphy in the slot is the best option for the team because of his physical playing style, perfect for guarding big TEs."

Perhaps. The question is whether the Cardinals are then OK with using Brock and Chris Jones as their outside guys consistently. I'm not sure what the answer is, because there is a chance the Cardinals just don't have the personnel right now for the best solution. But I would agree that some kind of change seems inevitable, because otherwise, you're just going to keep seeing the same results.

From Jonah Towns via azcardinals.com:

"Hindsight 20/20: Should we have paid the Calais Campbell ransom a few years back? I think the argument against it was he was aging, but as we see, CC is as dominant as ever. And boy, could we use him now."

Yes, that is definitely hindsight. You are correct in part -- they let Campbell walk because of his age, and not that he was done after 2016, but that he would probably only have a couple big years left. Obviously, Calais has proven that wrong at this point. He was fantastic last week against the Titans. But it wasn't just his age. The Cardinals drafted Calais in 2008 because they had a defensive lineman who was pretty good -- Antonio Smith -- who was about to head into his contract year. Smith was good again during the Super Bowl run, got a giant contract from the Texans, which the Cards expected, and then the Cardinals slid Campbell into his spot. That was the plan with Campbell and Robert Nkemdiche when they drafted Nkemdiche in 2016. I don't have to go over how that didn't work out. But that had been the plan.

Not sure why my job status would affect this, but anyway. I think it's awful early to be wondering if Vance Joseph hasn't done the job -- given what he's working with personnel-wise at the moment, the Cardinals have been OK in two games defensively. They have had one terrible game. Don't let recency bias muck things up. There are things that need to be fixed defensively, but no one was saying the Tech-bad-defense comparisons after the first two games. Let's see how this plays out a bit before sweeping judgments are made. The sample size remains small.

From J Fly via azcardinals.com:

"Feels like we're playing a lot of zone. And it's destroying us similar to last season. You might say 'Well that's because we're missing PP and Alford.' But is THIS really better than if we played press-man? I've never known the Cardinals to succeed in zone. It kills us. We're a press-man team, always have been. Obviously this zone stuff isn't working. And what happened to Vance telling Chandler 'We're a pass rushing/sack-getting team.' I have seen hardly any pass rushes. Remember the days where D-Wash was rushing the A-gap and getting sacks? What happened to those defenses?"

A lot of questions in this one question. OK, here goes.

  • There probably is more zone. That was going to happen, yes, once Alford and Peterson were out. The trust isn't there for Jones/Brock/Murphy to constantly play press-man. If the coaches are watching these guys at practice all the time and that's their determination, it's going to be difficult to want to switch thinking it'll cost you touchdowns even more often.
  • This team, as constructed, has defensive holes. Clearly. If everyone was around, yes, more press-man. But I don't buy that's "the Cardinals." This team has nothing to do with the 2015 team which had nothing to do with the 2008 team, etc.
  • Pass rushing is an issue. Other than Chandler Jones, they aren't getting consistent pressure from anyone. And if they bring more blitzers, you better have guys that can hold up one-on-one in coverage, which as we just mentioned, is no sure thing right now. Feels very Catch-22 right now.

As I noted above, it means something to not have Peterson and Alford (and Darius Philon). Yes, you knew P2 was going to be gone, and yes, Alford went down early enough in camp you had time to wrap your head around it. But the scheme was built on having cornerbacks like Peterson and Alford and Murphy then in the slot and so yes, it's all intertwined.

From Michael Travers via azcardinals.com:

"Hi Darren, thank you for the opportunity to ask a question. Over the first two weeks the team has given us fans the light at the end of the tunnel, and he wears No. 1. But we all know the NFL is the ultimate team sport and winning does not come easy. In your opinion how to does the offense start faster and what does the defense need to do to limit the other teams tight ends?"

They came out with touchdown drives to begin each half last week. They started fast, at least on offense. Defense, not so much. I think as Murray gets more comfortable -- Kingsbury too -- the fast starts on offense will come. Now, on defense, with the tight ends, I don't know the answer. If I did, I'd find myself a coach's office. Clearly it's on their collective mind.

From Juan QB1 via azcardinals.com:

"Do you think Adrian Wilson is destined to be our future GM? As with all things, Keim, Kliff, Kyler, Fitz, David, etc will all be gone someday. Do you think GM A-Dub is an inevitability? I do. I view him similarly to James Jones with the Suns. Or even Ozzie Newsome of the Ravens. Something about a successful long-term ex-player can read a team better than anyone."

I do not know. I know Adrian has worked very hard once he got into personnel and I know he wants to be a GM someday. I don't know if it will be here. I do think he'll be successful if he gets a chance to be a GM, wherever it might be. And I mean that sincerely, not just because if I said otherwise he'd give me the death stare.

This question is just an extension of the cornerbacks/defensive scheme question. There is no real way to quantify that. I think there are things the coaches can do to help things along, on both sides of the ball. But I am a believer, as I have said before, that the teams with the most talent win the most. There are only so many things a football team can scheme. There is a reason why the teams that suffer the fewest key injuries usually have the best seasons. Players matter.

From Jerry Brown via azcardinals.com:

"Do the Cards throw m(any) screen passes? Considering that they have David Johnson and were sacked eight times last week, should they be throwing more?"

Well, I guess you don't consider quick outs by the line of scrimmage wide receiver screens, but man, the Cardinals threw plenty of those last week. I disagree they don't throw screens -- maybe not against the Panthers, but there have been a few. Five of Murray's sacks came late, and while a screen might've slowed one, the Panthers didn't care at that point and even a screen probably would've been handled by a coverage guy in zone waiting on a short pass.

From Amber Rosey via azcardinals.com:

"Off topic, but why not? Being an ASU guy, why is it all the in-state talent leaves? Aside from Kyle Allen clearly being a heck of a talent, our very own Byron Murphy and Christian Kirk were local players. How much better would the ASU program be if all of these NFL-caliber players stayed home? I challenge you to sit down with all them and grill them 'Why did you not go to ASU?' "

I have enough challenges in my life, so I'm good. I think those questions are better served for the ASU coaches over the years. I am an ASU guy, but let's be realistic. The chances to play elsewhere can be tempting, especially in places where boosters have made those teams essentially like pro programs. The Pac-12 isn't in a great place right now either. I'd love for all the local guys to stay home.

Yes, there were definitely times when Murray should have thrown the ball away last week. He believes he can make a play out of nothing, and that's a great belief to have. But as he gains experience, he'll get better at it. Baker Mayfield was having similar issues Sunday night against the Rams. These guys are still learning the game.

From Brad Cain via azcardinals.com:

"OK, two-part question, first, when does the Cardinals 100-year curse end, and do you think we should give up the tainted championship to end the curse early?"

Not sure when the 100-year curse started, but I'd assume you'd just track 100 years from there? That seems to make sense to when it would end, no? As for any "tainted" championship, I'd think it's time for anyone worrying about that to get over it. Not sure how that's any different than people still complaining about Santonio Holmes' feet.

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