The Cardinals got back in the win column, and now we are one game away from the end of the regular season. Feels like a good time for a mailbag. As always, send along a question here for a future mailbag.
From Tom Cowley:
"Hi Darren. Big win for the Good Guys. Who do you expect back from the injury/ sick list for the Seahawks, and do you expect caution from the coaches on who will play,? I would hope the coaches would go with the momentum into the postseason with another win. What say you?"
I think Golden will be back. They have to hope Humphries and Kennard will be too. In terms of injuries, it's hard to tell. Given Chase Edmonds being beat up at the end of the Cowboys game, would I be shocked to see both he and James Conner sit out? No. (That's just my speculation here early in the week.) Generally, though, if you're healthy, I'm trying to win with you. But it'll take a lot for the Cards to move up from the No. 5 spot, and that rightfully influences decisions.
From Chad Johnson:
"You noted in the aftermath that special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers had two crucial calls on the fake punt and almost fake 4th down with Murray on field. How much freedom do ST coaches have to make those calls without the HC being involved? Can they do it whenever or does the HC initiate the decision and the ST calls the specific play?"
Like most parts of the game plan, these things are discussed during the week about why to have them "up" on the play sheet and if the opponent is vulnerable. And then it's up to Rodgers to pick a time if it makes sense. Kingsbury still needs to give the OK one last time, but it is Rodgers making the call. But yes, the head coach is involved. It's not like Rodgers is going to blindside Kingsbury. That'd be awful awkward if it didn't work.
From Simon from China:
"Hi Darren, a few quick questions after watching the Cowboys game:
- I saw OL coach Sean Kugler with a playsheet, talking to Kliff in run down situations. What is the exact process here? Does Kugler select the run plays and Kliff calls them? Or does he simply consult with Kliff?
- Who is the guy holding the yellow formation cards (showing 11, 12, etc. indicating the opponent's personnel) at the sideline when the defense is on the field?
- I saw Paul wearing coaches' headphones. Is he listening in on the playcalls or perhaps to the radio broadcast?
Cheers to a great win and happy new year from Shanghai!"
Hope things are great over there in China.
- Like Rodgers, they talk about the run plays earlier in the week. Unless I'm mistaken, Kugler is setting up the run game during the week and consulting on game day in certain situations, but Kliff makes the final call.
- I'd have to see video. It'd be easy to tell, but I don't have time to comb through the whole game right now.
- Paul isn't wearing coaches headphones. He's wearing run-of-the-mill Bose, and yes, it's to hear the broadcast. How else would he know when to talk?
From James Johnson:
"Do you guys know when a press conference is over? Or do you just wait and wait until somebody says OK it's over? Also, is it common for there to be a long wait between end game and guys getting the podium. What's the longest you ever had to wait for a guy to get to the podium (and who/why)?"
Generally when a press conference runs out of questions, the media relations person in the room will wait a beat and then will audibly thank the player/coach for his time and that's the end. Sometimes, it gets cut off even if people are trying to ask questions. But yes, we know when it's over. As for the wait, it can vary. Fitz used to take time before coming to an interview (he didn't like the podium so he tried to do it at his locker if he could help it.) and wanted to be dressed in his suit and tie first. Many quarterbacks take their time. Cam Newton used to, Russell Wilson has, Dak Prescott. Certainly Kyler usually likes to take his time (although it's been shortened some of late, so thank you Kyler), but there have been 45 minute waits between the next to last player and the QB.
From Michael Liddick:
"Thank you Darren for this forum! What's the soonest players like J.J. Watt and D-Hop could be back to help in the playoffs? Is it even possible anymore to have JJ Watt, or is his recovery going to take more time than is realistic for him to return this year?"
Since Hopkins is still on crutches, I don't see how he could return in the postseason. I'm not a doctor, but just sayin'. As for Watt, I don't know if he really knows if it is possible to return at some point. First, the team has to keep winning. And while Watt is working out, it's one thing to condition and even do some light weights, and another to push play after play on a 300-pound guy, or tackle a 220-pound guy as he flies by. Let's say this: He would defy the odds if he does.
From Michael Schmorr:
"Love the win! All the post game national media chatter was about the potential fumble from Chase Edmonds. It brought to mind a game years ago we had against the Giants where Victor Cruz had a clear fumble on a play where he was giving himself up and we recovered. It was ruled no fumble because he was giving himself up. Could that be ruled in this case also? Do you remember that play? What were your thoughts about both plays? In an unrelated note thanks for answering my kids questions last week, that was awesome, they got a kick out of it."
First, Edmonds was trying to stay inbounds but he wasn't giving himself up in my opinion. Aside from that, however, is the fact that the whole point the Cruz thing was a thing was because he fell to the ground and then let go of the ball without anyone touching him. Edmonds looked like he might've been losing control of the ball before he was down, which was why it was controversial in the first place.
From Juan De La:
"Hi Darren, first of all, I think Rodney Hudson have become the second most important player on offense. I think he was the MVP Sunday. Also, seeing what the Cards have done in away games this season, would you prefer the home field advantage? Thanks as always, love to read the mailbag. Go Cards!"
Yes, I'd like for the Cardinals to play at home in the playoffs. Yes, I know they have been much better on the road. But home games in the playoffs are something special. I've seen four of them and the Cards have won them all and the scene is hard to describe. Besides, struggles or not, I'd rather not have to play outside in Green Bay in January. That said, the fact the Cardinals have been so good on the road does make me think that an all-road playoff run is possible.
From Bill Thompson:
"Darren, don't you think that with Hop out shouldn't A.J. Green be the prime WR target for Kyler? Against the Colts A.J. had only three targets. I don't understand."
Bill, you sent this before the Cowboys game and I was thinking along those lines; but I also think being smart with where the passes go is a big deal. Green isn't the guy at this point in his career to whom you force 10 targets; I like Kyler's game in Dallas because I truly felt he was finding the right (often 1-on-1) coverage and throwing that way.
From Val Maloy:
"Hi Darren. Now that you've posted this weeks PFF grades, I feel justified in my complaint: why the heck doesn't Zaven Collins play more? My question is 'how come the really good player doesn't play? As noted for most of the season, Zaven grades very well every time he plays. Thats why I was surprised when he got benched. And so in his grand return to the field, shocker, he played well again! This is not a Simmons situation. Simmons was awful as a rookie. He needed time. Zaven, on the other hand, looks good every time. So what the heck man?"
Let's be clear -- PFF grades aren't the end all be all. There is a player that got a pretty good grade this week that I thought really struggled on Sunday. Maybe that's me, and maybe that's PFF. But we don't know what Collins is not doing when he's out there. I'll say this -- I see a team is 11-5, I see a defense that, for most of the season has been pretty solid. I do know there were a couple times when Collins was out there it looked like he was struggling. So yeah, I'm willing to go with Vance Joseph on this.
From Jake London:
"Hey Darren. I promise I'm not being snarky, I'm just genuinely curious, do you have a stat source on Byron Murphy's targets/catches/yards from the Dallas game? I'm pretty sure he gave up ever single catch that targeted his WR. Easily his worst game ever. And I really like Byron, I think he's the clear #1 CB."
It was not Murphy's best game, but frankly, I think he's earned a hiccup given how well he's played this season. According to Pro Football Focus, Murphy was targeted 8 times Sunday, giving up 7 completions for 65 yards.
From Robert Malicki:
"Recent fan questions have tip-toed around the subject of team's sitting players to save them for the playoffs, finding players to help because of NFL protocols or how this 17-game season affects health and availability issues. I would like to take that a step further. Enough of the season has passed to show the challenge facing teams pursuing a playoff goal. Whether the NFL goes to an 18-game season or not, it certainly looks like GM's and HC's are facing a seachange in game and season preparation. Do you see changes in roster movement, roster size, starting players being given planned games off, players playing fewer series, and the lessening of achievement records in importance resulting? Could there be a dividing of the season in half and a team qualifying or half-qualifying for the playoffs because of an undefeated first half of the season, for instance?"
It's an interesting concept, but no, I don't see that happening. Attrition will continue to be a big deal with NFL seasons and who ultimately wins the Super Bowl, but let's face it, it's rare that a very good team doesn't win it all. I know the best team doesn't always win, but a mediocre team never wins the whole thing. Whether it's 17- or 18-games, it's always going to be about the collective and who manages it the best. Because of that, you better be very careful about resting players, because every win matters.
From Irene Peoble:
"Is it possible that the dosage of the vaccine they give the players is not strong enough due to their size and muscle mass. Most of the players are bigger than the average person. They had to decrease the dosage for kids due to their size, should they increase the dosage due to size also? Just wondering why we have so many out when they supposedly vaccinated. Thanks for listening to me. Go Cardinals!"
Yeah, I'm not a doctor. (Which is an important point these days; way too many people think they are, or think they know as much as one.) But I am guessing the dosage has been entered into the equation.
From Bob Kitsos:
"With the recent spate of injuries and mediocre play, are you somewhat surprised that we haven't seen more of Isabella, Zaven Collins (to give Hicks an occasional blow) and, Eno Benjamin who didn't play on offense, or special teams in the Colts' game?"
Not really. When guys are healthy, they aren't going to play. Coaches see them every day at practice. They know what they have. If you think the guys they would replace are dogging it and need a spark, then yeah, bench them and put in one of these guys. But whatever the issues during the losing streak, I never felt like effort was the problem.
From Mike Ward:
"I enjoy all your comments and tweets. I'm curious, will Kliff ever get an offensive coach to call the plays; especially since they sit in a sky box and get a better view of formations. How likely is this and does that view from above make a difference? Thanks."
They have coaches upstairs giving info to Kliff. Calling plays upstairs or on the sideline is a matter of preference. But no, I do not expect Kliff to give up playcalling. He's made that clear it's what he loves most about the job.
From Chuck Mogavero:
"Hi Darren! Thanks for your insights! I never miss the mailbag articles. First time I've ever asked a question. What's up with these cancelcards people? Have you heard anything about them? They can't be fans. Fans don't hurt their team. Petitioning the commissioner to take away our playoff berth? My wife and I have been Cardinals fans since 1988 when they came to Arizona from St. Louis. We love our Cardinals! What do you think about this cancelcards movement?"
I'm not sure what you are talking about, to be honest. How, exactly, would you "cancel" an NFL team? I would say this, if there are people that say the Cardinals shouldn't be in the playoffs, then yes, I would agree they are not fans, at least of this team. Maybe trolls from another team's fanbase?
From B.B. Nobbers:
"I miss Kyle and Lisa. I don't like change. If you ever leave Darren, the team may as well pack up and move to London."
We all miss Kyle and Lisa. But if I left, not sure why the team would move to London. If I leave, the show will go on. It always does.
From Eric DeGesero:
"What's the deal with Andy Isabella? When he was drafted there was a lot of talk about how fast he was but Antoine Wesley was given an opportunity ahead of him?"
Again, Wesley is a big outside receiver, and Isabella doesn't have the size to play that role effectively. Isabella was having trouble getting on the field long before Wesley showed up.
From Cards Follower:
"Darren, does the Cards new plane have 280+ seats? I believe it was Wolf who said he could not get on, he had to take the second plane. Were there two planes going to Detroit? Can you give us some idea of who all travels with the team that they would need so many seats?"
Long story short, with the franchise and Michael Bidwill getting a new plane mid-season, there was an overlap on the Detroit trip that the new plane was ready and the chartered plane was already here. So, as long as it was paid for (I would guess) and with Covid peaking, they had a bunch of us on the "old" charter. It was back to one plane for Dallas.
From Jay Zimner:
"Thank you for all of your tremendous efforts through out the year in bringing our beloved Cardinals closer to us fans. With that said, I wonder how many of us fans are aware of the curse that has karmically jinxed this franchise for 96 years and could be the reason we continue to be frustrated as the longest tenured fan base without a championship (74 years) in pro sports? My question for you, is there any way we may be able to petition the more sophisticated and enlightened owner (my opinion), Michael Bidwill, to reconsider? Once and for all wwe can rid our franchise of this curse by returning the 1925 championship to Pottsville, PA so we can win a super bowl in my lifetime? Just a thought as we limp our way into a "rare" post season appearance. C'mon, let's do it for our children ;-). Thanks, D!"
Oh, Jay. I have bad news for you. You are talking to the wrong person. Jinxes and curses don't cost teams championships; poor tackling or bad passes or dropped interceptions do. It wasn't a curse that let Santonio Holmes catch that TD, or Carson Palmer to have so many turnovers that night in Carolina. Also, I have to chuckle -- Michael is enlightened, yet he'd buy into a curse? Believing in a curse goes way back before the time of enlightenment, no?
But I appreciate the effort. (And frustration.)