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You've Got Mail: Texans Week

Topics include Zach Ertz, Covid issues and trap games

Marco Wilson Mailbag

The Cardinals are 6-0 with a stretch of back-to-back home games coming up. The questions come in fast and furious these days, so let's get to some, shall we? As always, go here to send in a question for a future mailbag.

From Fran Jansen:

"Spencer Whipple is really getting some shine. Good for him. Good for all our coaches Sunday. Perhaps Kliff becomes moreso a HC, and delegating a little more? Handing off calls to Whipple or green hat frees up Kliff to do some other HC stuff. BA and Andy Reid both do that. They are of course the OCs, but they have assistants who often call the sheet. Ultimately it comes down to success. Maybe Kyler prefers Whipple's voice in his ear. It's worth exploring. Also Kyler seemed to enjoy a little more freedom. We've seen several times this season Kyler audible into a good play. We'll see what happens, but I think if Kliff loosens up his grasp on the 'O' a little bit, we will get even better."

I don't know if anything changes permanently after this. I mean, the Cardinals had 30-plus points and 400-plus yards of offense in each of the first four games, so I guess I'm missing what you think is missing from the offense. I realize you say they could be better, but I am guessing it would just be different. Kliff has no desire to not call plays. That's his thing.

From Gery S:

"Hey Darren, excited about Zach Ertz but do you think giving up Tay Gowan was necessary? Did Philly specifically ask for him? Ertz was a need, but so is cornerback. We already have a thin, banged-up CB room and to trade our one healthy depth guy is risky business. Yes he was raw, but he showed some real promise in his play time. I hope this isn't a short sighted trade done out of panic. I'm getting flashbacks of DRC to Philly for Kolb. Stakes aren't so high on this trade, but its similar."

With all due respect to Tay, are you seriously comparing 2011 DRC to 2021 Tay Gowan? DRC had been in a Pro Bowl. Gowan was unlikely to be active for a game all season. When they absolutely needed a cornerback against the 49ers, they didn't activate Gowan, they brought up Jace Whittaker from the practice squad. I think the price was fine. There is a chance Gowan could be good somewhere down the road. But it wasn't now, and they have a chance to win now.

From Glenny D:

"What are your thoughts on Ertz and what he brings to the team offensively? Pro bowls aside I don't think he necessarily fills Maxx's shoes. Maxx is one of the best blocking tight ends in the NFL while being a sneaky good receiver. Ertz is not really a blocker and a known receiving threat so teams will key on him moreso than they did Maxx. At worst, do you think he can be a good decoy?"

"Pro Bowls aside" is doing a lot of heavy lifting here. Is Ertz as good of a blocker as Williams? Probably not, but he's probably a better overall receiver. It changes a little bit with what you do with the position, but there are advantages there too. If he is a "good decoy" doesn't that make the offense better? Besides, at this point, the comparison is Ertz with Darrell Daniels or Demetrius Harris. Williams is hurt and not coming back. So he's not an option.

From Emma Rish:

"Hi Darren! Great team win on Sunday. I, as well as others, was feeling pretty nervous going in, but felt much better after the first quarter. Our defense did not miss a step considering all the men they were out that day. The Browns went for it on 4th down I think four times and we stopped them three. Last weekend we stopped the 49ers on every 4th down try if I'm not mistaken. I need a stat check: how many times have our opponents gone for it on 4th down and how many of those times have our defense stopped them? Thank you for taking my question and go Cards!"

This season, opponents have attempted fourth down 14 times. The Cardinals have stopped the conversion 10 times.

From Jerry Mueller:

"GOOD WIN! Question - are the Texans a trap game in your opinion? We almost got bit by Jacksonville so I'm just nervous and well conditioned as a long-time Cardinal fan to worry about letdowns. The thing that gives me some confidence is Hopkins and Watt. I don't think they will allow us to fall asleep on this one. Thanks."

That would be my reasoning. You have two respected veterans who very much want to play well and win this game, given what happened with the Texans. They will not let this be a trap game. Now, do the Cardinals cover that crazy 17.5-point spread I've seen? Who knows? But I don't see some big letdown.

From Greg North:

"How is it we can whoop the Rams, whoop the Titans, whoop the Browns. Playoff teams. And barely squeak passed the 49ers and Jags? Why can't we consistently be the good team? Beat the good teams and dominate the bad teams? On a week-to-week basis I have no idea what's going to happen or what team will show up. And no that's not exciting Darren. It's stressful. There's nothing I like more than a halftime blowout win so I can enjoy my Sunday. I almost had one this week, but that stinking Hail Mary robbed me. I had to sit all through halftime nervous."

"No idea what's going to happen."

  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W

Thus far, seems pretty straightforward to me.

From Mike Petretti:

"How soon can I get a Zach Ertz Cardinal jersey? What number will he be wearing? 86 hopefully!"

We still have not gotten officially word on his number. (Although his contract does run out after the season, so, jersey-wise, just sayin'.)

From Parker Way:

"When your media team posts videos of practice, how long does that filming last? We know practice has two parts. One for media. One for game prep that's closed. The reason I ask is because every video is the same. Same drills over and over. Of course they are important, but you can't help but feel like they get redundant and boring. The DL just spends every day pushing sleds? I'm just wondering if that's comparably a very brief part of practice. I know I as a player wouldn't mind it so much if I had to do these same drills just as a warmup everyday. But if I'm spending hours every day, doing the same drills, I would do everything in my power to never practice (shoutout to Larry)."

Shoutout to Larry seems odd, because he always practiced, so I am assuming you are amazed at that? Well, whatever. As for your question, yes, they do those drills every practice. Yes, it's a smaller part of the practice. Sometimes the team will film beyond the media portion, but they are not going to post plays that give away what's coming from Sunday. That'd be dumb. As for players being bored, that's why they call practice practice and repetitions repetitions. Because you are doing things over and over to get them right, so they are second-nature.

From Jeff Smith:

"Hello Darren, thank you for hosting the fan mailbag; always appreciate your insights. The Cardinals are playing well and these wins on the road are big. Am I the only one who gets frustrated with opening drive first-down playcalls? Seems we pass first and have a sack or penalty killing a drives. Where is Chase? Big plays, few carries. I don't get it. Seems he should get at least 15 carries a game as he has been breaking big runs over the past few weeks. Hard to complain when winning, but starting drives first-and-20 are going to catch up to us."

In Cleveland, the Cardinals scored on seven of their nine drives. They had 10 total downs in the game where they had more than 10 yards to go; only two of them came on drives in which they did not eventually score (and one of those came on the last kneel-down drive). That's probably a factual way of saying, yeah, it's hard to complain.

From Leslie Bernhardt:

"Hi D. Just read the PFF article for the week. I appreciate you posting it despite it being controversial. It's a good read ultimately. No, this is not a cry for Zaven Collins to play more. I couldn't be happier with our defense as is, that includes Hicks as starter. But you've surely noticed that every week, in a small amount of snaps, Zaven seems to be doing his (limited) job perfectly. Every week, he's very highly rated. How come we don't see more Hicks+Zaven at ILB, with Simmons in as pass rusher? Happy with Golden and Gardeck and Kennard of course, but of those guys, I think Simmons has a different skillset and ability. You even pointed out Watt was in at OLB at one point. These are champagne problems. But it's worth questioning. We always talk about 'the best 11 guys.' And it seems Zaven may be one of the best."

As much as Collins has flashed, I would not say he's done things perfectly. Otherwise, he would be playing more. We have seen the three ILB lineup quite a few times. I think ultimately you answered your own question -- they are putting their best 11 on the field. In most situations, he isn't that guy. Not quite yet.

From Kenny W:

"Hi Darren, great win in Cleveland, it is awesome to see so many guys and coaches chipping in for a dominant performance. I always enjoy the locker room speeches after the game and enjoy seeing who the coaches deem worthy of receiving a game ball. I also have a ton of appreciation for Mr. Bidwill for stepping in and showing his appreciation to the team sans Kliff (It's great to have such an engaged owner). However, if everyone gets a game ball, does anyone actually stand out? If you had four or five game balls to give out, who would you have given them to?"

I like the idea, with everything they went through, for everyone to get a ball. And there were more than five guys who deserved one. But if I had to pick five?

  1. Spencer Whipple
  2. Hop
  3. Golden
  4. Hicks
  5. Kyler

From Wayne Tibs:

"Just to be clear on the Ertz thing, he's expected to be a partial season rental? I'm sure its possible we re-sign him but considering he wants an extension, arguably a big one, I'm not sure that's feasible. I know we are in a Super Bowl window and if we win it then any move on this earth will be 'worth it'. But giving up a 5th and Tay for 11 games is rough, man. Here's hoping he catches the game winner in our Super Bowl. If Tay ever gets released by Philly in the next two years, which is very possible, hopefully they bring him back."

I think Gowan was a great story but I'll be honest, I'm a little taken aback by the swell of disappointment with the trade. The way many fans have reacted it's like the Cards dealt Patrick Peterson in his prime. And if he got released after being traded, I mean ...

From Lon Brown:

"What's going on with the COVID outbreak on the team? Good everyone is vaxxed but as we know you can still test positive. Is there a chance folks started getting a little too relaxed? I see at the presser all the players are wearing masks again. It seems to be the case. Time to reinstitute some of the stricter control measures going forward. COVID is still here and can still derail a season."

I don't think you need to tell the Cardinals that. They are aware.

From Ben Jones:

"I noticed the team depth chart currently lists Jordan Phillips as third-string behind Allen and Fotu. Is that accurate? Certainly it could be because he hasn't played or barely practiced this year. But it's notable Ertz is already listed as TE1. So just odds and ends. I was actually surprised, Phillips played pretty good vs Cleveland."

It's not notable because the depth chart comes out only once a week -- Tuesday afternoon -- so any roster additions at that point are Darren Urban adding them where he sees fit, until the new one comes out the following Tuesday and it can be tweaked.

From Logan Ledman:

"What's the official diagnosis on Maxx Williams? Was it just the ACL or was there more? If he can escape with just an ACL he's got a good chance of returning off IR next year. Fingers crossed."

When asked for specifics, Kingsbury declined to say. So I do not know if it was just the ACL or if multiple ligaments were damaged.

From Coach Moe:

"Hey Darren, armchair coach here. I've been watching Gardeck's snaps and his pass rush this year is noticeably different than last year (when of course he was getting a pressure every other try). Last year, he rushed with speed. Used his height and leverage to dip under OTs and speed by them. He's fantastic at it. This year, in limited snaps, he's suddenly trying to be a power rusher, to no avail. Maybe he doesn't feel confident pivoting off that repaired knee? I hope he regains some confidence in his body and goes back to his speed rush. Man can't be stopped when he does."

I don't know if that's what he is doing or now -- I have not watched Dennis' specific work very closely. But coming back slowly from an ACL tear is not unusual. Ask Tyrann Mathieu.

From Lei Norman:

"Why do some camera people in the end zone wear brown vests and others don't?"

I'm not sure there are camera people without the vests. Those in the end zone without vests shouldn't be camera people. I'd need examples.

From Tom Clark:

"Hiya Darren, I have a fun question. Did you see Markus Golden's postgame presser? He was wearing a beanie that says 'Don't Fold' on it. With the 'Don't' crossed out. Which is to say it just says 'Fold.' I already know I'm reading into too much, but that is a weird message. Basically his beanie is saying 'Always give up. Fold! Quit! You can do it!' And obviously Golden is the antithesis of quitting. So it just struck me so funny."

It is strange but I have not talked to him so I have not had a chance to ask.

From Robert Malicki:

"Is Steve Keim channeling George Allen? We old school fans knew him as the prophet of 'The Future Is Now.' As a fan I am not afraid of acquiring veterans to provide experienced talent, discipline and leadership. With Zach Ertz we now match-up stronger with the Rams and 49ers and Seahawks, and even with the Bucs. This trade reminds me of how Tom Landry, twice acquired a veteran TE, both times resulting in a Super Bowl appearance. First, with Mike Ditka for SB VI and then with Jackie Smith and playing in SB XIII. If what SK has in mind with Zach works out this will be an exciting season, indeed. What say you?"

What I say, Robert, is that most people reading this, alas, do not know who George Allen is or his Over The Hill gang. They might know Jackie Smith since he was a Cardinal.

From Cam Smith:

"Watched the Ravens/Colts game the other night. I just want to take a moment and lament how atrocious the decision to let Calais Campbell goes was, and still is to this day. Since leaving the team in 2016, he's only made four Pro Bowls. Today at the age of 35 he's still a cornerstone player. What's that old saying about 'Not letting good players go?' Great player. Better person."

Got it. They made a mistake. Just like the Patriots made a mistake by trading Chandler Jones -- by the way, for the same reason. The Cardinals hoped Robert Nkemdiche was going to be that player, just like they drafted Campbell to replace Antonio Smith. It just didn't work out.

From William Wootten:

"Hey Darren I have three questions for you. Two are Cardinals related and one is just football related.

  1. I am a bit surprised with how well our pass defense has been. Before the season I felt our secondary was going to be one of the weaker ones in the league. Is it because our cornerbacks are better than anticipated or is it Vance Joseph's scheme?
  2. Why doesn't Larry comeback to play tight end? … Just kidding. I don't get why people even ask that question. My real question is what does Kyler have to do in order for you to consider him a franchise QB if you do not already consider him one?
  3. Please help me settle a stupid argument I am having at work. A coworker of mine said the league is sleeping on Mike Vick and if he came back into the league right now he would be one of the best if not the best in the league. I said he is crazy for even having the thought."

Interesting trio of questions.

  1. I think the cornerbacks have been better than expected. Marco Wilson especially rose up quicker than anticipated, negating the loss of Malcolm Butler.
  2. I don't know because I already consider him that and I do not know why someone would not.
  3. I saw Mike Vick in one of his final games when he played against the Cardinals for the Steelers in Pittsburgh in 2015. He was not good then. He was electric in his prime, but yes, I believe crazy is a proper term here.

From Jayson Wing:

"I understand that Corey Peters found out he was tested positive for Covid and could not play in game 90 minutes before kickoff. Nor could he travel home on team plane. How did he get back to Phoenix?"

To be clear, he knew more than three hours before kickoff. Just want to be clear on that. As for the ride home, I do not have specifics.

From Mikey S.:

"Hey Darren! Which game on the Cardinals' schedule going forward do you feel is the most intriguing or the most important? I think there a few worthy candidates against top NFC clubs like Green Bay on Thursday night and the Dallas game, but for me it's that second Rams game. That game could likely decide who wins the NFC West and I'm interested to see how the outcome compares to the first matchup."

All are good choices. With the way those three teams are playing, all three have an opportunity at the No. 1 seed and the only playoff bye. That Dallas game intrigues me for sure, but yes, I am more interested in the Rams Part II, given their history and the first result.

From Guilherme Rafael:

"Hi Darren, Cardinals fan from Brasil. I don't understand the Eno Benjamin situation. If they believe in his talent, why isn't he playing? And if they think he's not NFL-caliber, why not release him? He's even behind Jonathan Ward and is essentially a wasted roster spot for two seasons now. The only reasonable explanation I can think is that they're going to let Edmonds hit FA and replace him with Eno. Your thoughts?"

I think they like him as a running back. I think they like Ward more on special teams. Might Edmonds walk after the season and be replaced by Eno? Possible. But for now, they aren't in the business of cutting players they do think can help -- injuries happen, after all -- and unfortunately for Eno, he just happens to be stuck where he is on the depth chart.

From Chris White:

"Why wouldn't the Cardinals try to get Larry Fitzgerald to play tight end for them?"

Why? Because they have Zach Ertz after all! Amirite?

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