The Cardinals endured a harsh one Sunday against the Panthers, but it's on to Seattle -- and then a much-needed bye. As always, send in questions for a future mailbag here. This one is epic length. I gotta cut down on the number of questions I take.
From Michael Schmoor:
"Yes the Panther game was a disaster, we all agree on that. I thought of all the players that took the field that day the most disappointing was Rodney Hudson. I noticed almost every snap was low and tons of interior free rushers lighting us up before the play could even begin. It was out of ordinary for sure which is why it was so glaring to me. Was something wrong with him? I assume he played the whole game but we had to deal with a broadcast team that thought Cam Newton was the only person on the field. I'm tired of losing to this team and I HOPE we see them again in the playoffs because it will be different."
I did notice there were a handful of low snaps. I do not know if there is an issue but he was fine against the 49ers. The Panthers have a very good defense and defensive line and the Cards paid for it Sunday. In the end, Hudson would be very low on the list of my concerns right now.
"Since we seem to get a bit thin on the QB position until Kyler returns, some very serious ideas .How about Kingsbury signing himself up to the roster and play against the Seahawks ? Wining that game would be his ultimate Masterpiece. Let Kliff cook! Can Larry Fitzgerald play quarterback?"
Well, as long as you have serious ideas ...
From Joachim Ploug:
"Hi Darren! Thanks for doing the mailbag. In the days leading up to TNF against Green Bay, Kyler Murray was listed as a full participant with a right finger issue. He played with his pinky finger taped up, and during the broadcast Troy Aikman said, that Kyler told him it didn't hurt, but it affected his grip on the ball. I don't know if it correlates, but I thought Kyler's accuracy was just uncharacteristically a little bit off. When he was warming up a bit before the Carolina game, I noticed that his right pinky was still taped. Maybe I'm suffering from PTSD after Carson's finger issue in 2015, but do you know what's the deal with Kyler's right pinky? Or maybe you can ask Kliff or Kyler."
Kyler's finger is no longer part of the injury report so I am guessing it's not really a thing. But after the Carson situation, I understand where you are coming from (of course, we asked Carson about that then too and he said he was fine so I don't know if asking about it will be of use.)
From Jeff Smith:
"OK Darren, want to get your thoughts. Cardinals have not beaten Carolina in a long time. Interesting day as Rivera beat Arians so the train keeps moving on. Two thoughts on the game; after a strip-sack starting off, why would we go for it on fourth down the second series. Hated the call. Also, why were we pass-heavy in the first half when we needed to gather ourselves. Disappointed in Kliff as he did not give us a chance. I would think we would play it close to the vest to figure things out. This game will come back to bite us in the playoffs."
Kliff came out and took the blame for the play-call on fourth down. As for going for it, he said that's what they have done all season, he is right, and I have no problem going for it. That's the league now. I probably would've incorporated James Conner into the third-down play, but ultimately, they had two downs to get one yard and didn't. As "pass-heavy," I didn't see the Cardinals carving out many rushing yards. And frankly, had Colt McCoy just dumped it to Moore right in front of him and not tried to go across his body over the middle for the interception, that drive was going places even with the throwing. I just think it was a bad game all around.
From Charles Hunt:
"Hey Darren, hope all is well. Tough loss this week. After watching the game, here are a few notes. Interested ed to know your thoughts.
- QB Sneak on 4th and a LONG one was a not good call.
- Too many offense empty sets. QBs are getting hammered and need more protection.
- This hurts, but is true. Simmons isn't great in coverage. Jack of all trade, master of nothing. Definitely not an impact player for being the eighth player in the draft.
- Zaven and the others LBs ( including Hicks) are not very good at filling holes and tackling.
- Marco Wilson needs to be benched.
- How the Cards can't defend a read option is inexcusable. So is having Chandler Jones cover a WR.
- Last how is Dortch activated and Andy Isabella isn't? The people want to see Andy and his speed.
Gotta be honest, some of these only being brought up after the worst game of the season feels disingenuous. Many of these are defensive things, and I don't recall hearing all these complaints after the Titans or the Rams or last week against the 49ers.
- Kliff admitted as such.
- Didn't look much different than against the 49ers. The strip sack, for instance, was one mistake by Humphries. Had nothing to do with the formation or the play.
- I disagree with Simmons' arch. He isn't a Pro Bowler right now, but you are implying he is a bust and I can't disagree more.
- Yes, bad game Sunday.
- For who? Besides, he's been fine. Had a bad day Sunday. Like many players.
- I won't argue about Chandler in coverage.
- Dortch is a better punt returner and with Moore banged up, that's why he got the need over Isabella Sunday. And define "the people?"
From Nick Ragusa:
"Why is a talent like Andy Isabella not playing? If the coach is not going to play him, let him go elsewhere where he will play for sure."
See above about Sunday's inactive spot for Isabella. I can say this for sure -- they aren't cutting him, which is the only way he'd go anywhere else in 2021.
From Gary Gammiero:
"Hi Darren. I really enjoyed your story about Markus Golden (Junk)! I really like watching him play and appreciate the attitude he brings to the team. He is a loyal Cardinal as I am a loyal Cardinal fan since 1966. Could you tell him that he is one of my favorite Cardinal players? Tell him I want to buy my next jersey with his name and number on it. I would like it to be a newly designed jersey if possible."
This feels like a backdoor "when are we getting new jerseys" question. But it isn't a surprise your feelings on Golden. I'm thinking there are a lot of Golden fans. It's hard not to be.
From Martin Doppler:
"Hey Darren. We looked really good with Colt (against SF). And despite Kliff claiming nothing changed in the play calls, the eyeballs say otherwise. That was a very tightly managed game. It's my opinion we should adopt that style going forward. Kyler and Kliff both have hero-ball syndrome and like to get a little too cute sometimes. Do you think they keep any of the Colt conservatism going forward or is it back to the ride-or-die when Kyler returns?"
If there was a more conservative bent, it was because there was a backup QB. Kyler Murray can do some fantastic things. You will need him to do fantastic things to reach the Super Bowl. I am guessing some of your "ride or die" interpretation tends to come from Murray's crazy talents. It's going to look a lot different when McCoy is in the game simply because he can't do many of the things Murray can do. I frankly hate the idea of having "tightly managed" and Kyler in the same sentence. That's a waste.
From John Boonk:
"On the subject of injuries, practice and the extra long season - do players actually NEED full-go practice all season? Early in the year I think it's a must, both to learn how to play with your team, reps and getting the body warm. But when we start getting into week 10, the games themselves are 'physical practices.' You said KK is leaning towards walk through currently do to the rash of injuries, but it seems like we should only do walk throughs anyways. And I've played plenty of football in my life."
When the quarterback himself says he prefers to have regular practices to make sure he is prepared the right way, I'm going to lean toward full practice. (And let's make sure everyone remembers full practice this time of year still isn't fully padded and it's never tackling.) I'm sure they will gear back, but the idea that you don't ever have regular practices seems pretty over-the-top to me. It's not going to stop guys from getting hurt in games.
From Benoit Chabot:
"I am a big fan of the Cards from Canada. I am following them since Kurt Warner joined. I am impressed by the pass defense. Our cornerbacks are shutting down the aerial attack et they tackle well. They are always close to the receiver and they chase the ball and create the turnovers. What is the reason for this big step compared to last year?"
The Cardinals wanted to get more physical on the back end and they wanted to supplement their youth. Marco Wilson helped with both, Byron Murphy has taken a big jump, and Robert Alford has quietly had a solid comeback season. Overall, though, it just feels like the defense has been working in cohesion the best since Vance Joseph showed up.
From Myron Hatfield:
"Darren, a 17-game schedule may be great for the fans but what kind of physical toll do you think it will take on the players?"
Well, we haven't gotten to the 17th game so I don't know. At this point, the players have done nothing but gone through a regular year, so however beat up teams are, it doesn't have anything to do with the expanded schedule. That said, this league is looking to make more money. It always is. That's why there are 17 games, and why somewhere down the road it won't be a surprise to see 18 games.
From Greg Danielson:
"Hi Darren. Is J.J. Watt going to get surgery on his shoulder this year (for the possibility of returning for the playoffs, if the Cards make it deep into the playoffs), or is the organization waiting till the offseason?"
Based on Kliff Kingsbury saying a couple of times Watt had surgery scheduled, I would guess he already had surgery, although that has not yet been confirmed. Whether that would put him in a position to potentially return, no matter how late in the season it would be, I don't know that for sure.
From Bob Kitsos:
"Enjoy the mailbag. It's a fun and informative read. Would you have liked the Cards' bye week a little earlier in the season or are you OK with the week 12 slot?"
Given how the season has turned out, maybe it'd be nice to have it this week. But let's say it was before the Green Bay game -- it's possible it could've cost Murray yet another game, depending on how things go. Mostly, I'm a believer in, the schedule is the schedule and you have to make it work.
From Richard Sousa:
"Darren. Love the FolkTales, but why no Wolf? Who's choice was/is that? We could've used some of his hype during some of those. Nonetheless, I'm really enjoying the production."
We interviewed a ton of people. There were a few people on our planned list, including Wolf, but between logistics and time, it didn't work out. I'd like to think we did a pretty nice job getting everyone we had.
From Derek from Vancouver:
"Hi Darren. It goes without saying, but the talent on this team is amazing. And while it's so much fun to watch this group, the reality of keeping the roster together for next season seems like wishful thinking. Does Keim have any chance at all? Any inside knowledge if Golden will be back? I really hope he's one of many that stick around."
Golden is under contract through 2022. As for the many, many others who have expiring contracts, it's naive to think everyone will be back. It doesn't work that way. I'm sure they will carefully discuss everyone. But that's why each successful year needs to be enjoyed in the moment. The next year is never quite the same.
From Peter Kacmar:
"Hello Darren. It's been some time since we heard anything about our European mate Psycho. I know he is on the IPP squad and thus not eligible to play this season. Does he take part in all the regular training procedures and position meetings? Do you have any news about how does he look like in the training? What is actually his status for the next season? Do the Cards have some priority right to sign him if they decide to?"
Tight end Bernhard Seikovits is indeed practicing daily with the Cardinals. He's not going to play in a game this season, and I don't know exactly what kind of progress he is making. I don't know if the Cardinals have a right of first refusal with his contract next season; I would guess yes, and I would guess Seiko would want to stay if given an option. I'll try and get some answers sometime soon.
From Pascal Pierre:
"Hi Darren. Thank you for the mailbag, it is a must-read for me every week. It seems to me that, since there is a focus to reduce preseason time and reduce contact during preseason, we see a rise in injuries during the regular season. What is your take on that?"
I don't know if there is a direct correlation between reduced preseason things and a rise in injuries. I don't even know if injuries are on the rise in the first place. I could see why Cards fans would have that concern because there is a lot on the line. But mostly, I think it's bad luck. Playing more in preseason wouldn't have stopped that Green Bay defender from falling the wrong way on Kyler's ankle.
From Cy Fredrick:
"Hey Darren! Thanks, as always, for the mailbag. The additions to this roster have been, in a word, splendid. one question about a current player and another about a potential one. Why do you think there wasn't a bigger market for James Conner this past offseason? How likely do you think it is that we see Darren Fells back in a Cardinals uniform?"
I don't think it's likely Fells comes back because the Bucs and B.A. grabbed him. As far as Conner, he was coming off injuries, and the reality is, it's tough out there for a running back. The league has found them to be the most replaceable position, and the market usually reflects that.
From Jake Knotts:
"Hi Darren. There's been some talk on the reddit fan forum regarding J.J. Watt's injury, and it's a valid concern. Is this perhaps career ending? The fact Steve Keim and people are speculating 'he might come back' if we go deep into the playoffs feels ridiculous. He obliterated his shoulder. He really did tear everything possible in that region. So me, being the armchair doctor that I am, arent even thinking about him coming back this year. I'm worried does he come back ever? Is he even healthy enough to play NEXT season?"
At least you acknowledge playing armchair doctor. Look, I know what reportedly happened to him, and maybe that is all true. But the team and Watt have not specified what happened (hell, we don't even have official confirmation at this point he had surgery.) But I couldn't begin to decipher what it might mean for 2022. I would think coming back this season is unlikely, but I am guessing J.J. himself didn't want to rule it out and so Keim and Kliff weren't going to do so publicly either. Finally, and this is no small thing, I've got enough to do with seven games left in this season (plus postseason) to worry at this point what might happen for 2022. There is plenty of time to worry about those things later, if they need worrying.
From Charley Ismael:
"I am curious about special teams and you always have great answers. Special teams play can have a huge impact on the game in a single play, but are rarely discussed in the teams general success.
- Do teams have a different set of players entirely depending on if they are receiving the ball like a punt or kickoff, as opposed to receiving? Of course they have a return specialist in the case of receiving, but otherwise generally along the line gunning or blocking?
- Do they avoid using offense or defense players not wanting them to be winded from a recent sprint down the field if they could be playing on the upcoming set of downs?
- Do they use 'second or third' string players just to try to avoid injuries to the starters, or do they field the very best athletes they have?
- Do the players get a choice in playing on special teams?
- Do the players have the attitude that special teams is a step down from their customary role on offense or defense? Do they look at it as another opportunity to contribute or make a name for themselves?
- Do players get any kind of bonuses written into their contracts if they play on special teams?
- Do teams typically have a player, who in the event of one of the 'specialists' (punter, place kicker, long snapper, holder) having to leave in mid-game due to injury, that practice one of those skills even though they play another position? It is such a handicap to lose one of them without some replacement.
- Can players, beyond the specialists mentioned above, get named to the pro bowl as a special teams player?
- Last one. It seems like with his speed that Andy Isabella could be a good return man, but are there questions about his ability to catch a punt or kickoff?
I know it's a lot of questions and your time is valuable, no offense taken if you don't respond."
Normally, it'd be better with fewer questions but you caught me on a good day. (But in general in this mailbag, it'd probably be better for everyone to be a little more efficient in their queries and not write quite as long.)
- Many players play multiple special teams, covering kicks or returning them. You have to. There are only 48 guys active on game day, and some don't play special teams at all.
- That's why if you are a backup you better play special teams, but sometimes, guys play on a team and then go out for their regular job, winded or not.
- Teams try and not play very valuable players on special teams for risk of injury. But again, you only have so many bodies.
- Nope. Not if they want to stay on the roster.
- Some guys do see special teams as below their "station," if you will. Coaches usually don't like those guys a bunch.
- They can.
- Yes, there are emergency long snappers, punters and kickers.
- There is one spot in each conference for a special teams player who is not a kicker or return man.
- Isabella has worked at both but the Cardinals like others at the spot more.
From Dhruvraj Parmar:
"These taunting penalties seem to go a little too far. Other than the call on both Norman and Kliff (in the 49ers game) there have been other moments where someone catches a pass and stares down the defender and they will throw a flag. Is this something the league might change if all teams complain? What originated the need for this rule to be so strictly followed this year compared to past? Every game (Cricket, Soccer, Basketball) has this, heat of the moment in sports."
The rule has always been in place. Strict enforcement has not. The league owners and its competition committee apparently see a need for it. I don't think anyone likes it, but it isn't getting changed this year at least. I read somewhere there have been 6 ejections this season as opposed to more than 20 in each of the last two seasons; so they reason things were escalating to the point guys were getting kicked out and they didn't want that.
From Marilyn Tisch:
"Chandler Jones is an incredible player and man. Would like to see the Cardinals pay his fine to NFL for honoring Freddie Joe Nunn, after he surpassed him as player with most sacks the franchise. You guys owe Chandler for dissing him at beginning of season, over his salary! Make it right to him and Mr. Nunn and Cardinal fans."
I'm not sure how the Cardinals -- which isn't me, let's make that clear, I wish I owned a part of the team -- "dissed" Chandler. If you are talking about his lack of a contract extension, you can feel how you feel, but it's not like the Cards were out of the ordinary in such a situation compared to other teams. As for the fine, I don't think that's supposed to be available, the team paying the fine -- but I agree it was not great he got fined in the first place.
From Dan Rogers:
"Were you surprised we made no trade deadline moves? Ertz was one, but I really expected we'd get a DL. With Watt out, Lawrence down for now (hopefully not long), and Jordan Phillips always threatening a return to IR, it would seem our DL is in a fragile state. Furthermore I've been paranoid about cornerback all season, especially after Tay was traded and Douglas got stolen by GB. DL and CB is precariously thin."
No I wasn't surprised. If you are going to trade for someone, you have to make a decision who that person is going to replace, and is it an enough of an upgrade to give up assets (and what assets you might want to surrender?) I didn't hear of or see many defensive linemen worthy of an upgrade that were actually on the trading block. I understand about cornerback too but every team is thin at cornerback. There aren't enough to go around. (Gowan may or may not have played anyway; Antonio Hamilton started on the practice squad and beat out both Gowan and Douglas for a roster spot.)
From Albert Fuller:
"Hey Darren, so the team is definitely going with the next-man-up mojo which I think we have an amazing roster and depth which are all playmakers. The last time we was using a lot of second- and third-string players that was outstanding as a team in my opinion was the team we had that got us all the way to the NFC championship against the Panthers. What's your opinion on that? And which team is better the team then or the team we have now which is 8-1 as I write this?"
The team that used a lot of the next man up stuff was actually 2014, not 2015 when they got to the NFC Championship game. In 2014, they started 9-1, but Carson Palmer tore his ACL among many, many injuries, and later Drew Stanton messed up his knee and they went into the playoffs with Ryan Lindley at QB and it did not end well. The question is which team was better, I assume with health? I think this year's team might be able to withstand injuries a bit better, but that 2014 team was pretty good. In the end, it'll come down to QB. If Kyler Murray comes back and dominates -- something Palmer wasn't able to do -- than this team has the advantage easily.
From Jeff Oakley:
"Any chance to link up with your fellow Ask The Old Guy Darin Gantt? Two weathered NFL beat writers both named Darren. Is it like looking into a mirror?"
I did do a video with Darin, although looking back on before Sunday seems like much happier times. I take offense to being called weathered (you can call Darin that all you'd like.) And I most certainly don't feel like it's a mirror when I'm looking at D-Gantt. He did tell some great stories at dinner Saturday night, though.
From Treyson DiCamillo:
"Hi, gotta a few questions about the team.
- What is your favorite moment of this season so far?
- Do you think that the Cardinals will go to the Super Bowl this year?
- When looking at the schedule for the first time, what do you think was the hardest game(s) to play?"
Got a few answers:
- That game-sealing drive of mostly runs against the Rams in L.A. I thought that said a lot about how this team has evolved.
- Too early to tell.
- I thought the opener in Tennessee was going to be a big problem. I thought the game in L.A. against the Rams. And I did and still do wonder about the game in Dallas.
From Josh Balm:
"Is Kyle your bookie now? Give me 4-to-1 money line the Cards at least make it to the NFC championship game. Parlay Bucs as the opponent. Gimme the points."
Kyle is a lot of things, but he's not a bookie. At least, as far as I know. As far as your own wager, I can't help you -- you can always try betmgm.com.