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You've Got Mail: Time For Dani To Take Over

Topics include players who've impressed, position room improvement, playing GM

Mailbag JT and Starling Thomas

So Darren is gone. OK, he's on vacation.

But while he's away, he has left us -- myself, Craig Grialou and Zach Gershman -- in charge.

It's my turn to tackle your questions.

Over the next couple of weeks, it will be Craig on June 23 and Zach on July 9. So if you have a question for one of them, great; otherwise, they'll take whatever comes in.

From KJ Salnier:

"Why did the Cardinals only have one day of minicamp? Don't they need those practices? What's the point of cutting it short?"

The Cardinals had almost perfect attendance at all their voluntary OTA workouts leading up to mandatory minicamp, which is not common around the league and says a lot about the culture in place. I'd imagine that played a large role in the coaching staff deciding to cut minicamp down to one actual day of practice. If they were able to work through everything they wanted to get done before training camp, I don't have a problem giving players an extra day or two to rest their bodies.

From Kaden Anderson:

"Dani! Great to see you getting a turn on the mailbag. A couple of questions for you. What player impressed you the most this offseason? What do you think is going to happen with all the young players at cornerback? And what road trip are you looking forward to the most? Thanks for taking my questions. GO CARDS!"

It's hard to answer this one with true conviction because the practices we've seen thus far have been light work and we won't get a true look until training camp in late July. Wide receiver Michael Wilson and outside linebacker BJ Ojulari come to mind. Wilson looks stronger and more confident in how he carries himself out on the field, which makes sense after spending his entire offseason in Arizona to work out with his quarterback to build upon that chemistry from late last season. Wilson has also been mentioned by multiple teammates as someone others have relied on to get better in some facet this offseason. Ojulari has put on muscle in his first real offseason and it looks good on him. He's another player heading into year two carrying himself with more confidence, which makes sense after spending last year's rehabbing.

I assume you're implying the three rookie defensive backs, but remember, all the cornerbacks apart from Sean Murphy-Bunting are "young players." I expect to see a lot of competition in training camp. Starling Thomas V earned the starting role over Kei'Trel Clark last year, so in my mind that position is Thomas' to lose as they both head into year two. There's a reason this front office brought in as many rookie DBs as they did; that's a position of need and they want those players to compete. Max Melton was a second-round draft pick, so my expectation is for him to show up to camp with full understanding of the playbook and earn a starting role opposite Murphy-Bunting. I see the third outside cornerback spot as arguably the position with the most competition.

Minnesota is my favorite stadium that I've traveled to so far and I love that we get to play there again this year, but I'm really excited for the rest of our road trip schedule because there are a lot of places I've never visited before. Green Bay and Buffalo are atop my list because of the tradition behind those stadiums and fan bases (and thankfully we won't be there in late December). I'm excited to visit Miami because I've never been before, and well, it's Miami.

From Elijah S:

"Hey Dani. Love your work and hoping to hear a lot of it this year covering a playoff team. What do you think is the most improved part of the team, and what part still needs work to do? Also, we hear players asked this all the time about what is your welcome to the NFL moment. What was your welcome to the NFL moment?"

There are a lot of positions that have improved this offseason, but the standout group for me has been the defensive line. It was a main area of emphasis throughout the draft and free agency, and with good reason. The Cardinals not only have the veteran experience mixed with some younger players to develop, but it's also a much more formidable group than in years past. The mindset and physicality have been upgraded, there's no question about that.

I'm curious to see how the pass rush improves this year. While they didn't add a lot of new faces, I do expect the attention spent on the defensive line and the defensive backs to have a trickle-down effect on a more productive pass rush.

My "welcome to the NFL" moment? I can't say anyone has ever asked me that before, so I've never really thought about it. Typically for players, it's a moment where a mistake opens their eyes a bit, but for me I think about the cool opportunities I've had over the years that have felt too unbelievable to be my reality. In Dallas, it was probably seeing my Dad meet HoF wide receiver Drew Pearson at a radio show I worked on. My Dad grew up watching him and loving his play, and Drew even had my Dad put his Super Bowl ring on to take a picture together, which was a special moment to experience with him. In Arizona? My first game working for the Cardinals and interviewing J.J. Watt after beating the 49ers. I couldn't believe I was interviewing a future first-ballot Hall of Famer within days of moving out here.

From Matthew Stroh:

"Hey Dani Sureck. Love your Cardinals media work. You do great one-on-one interviews with players. Thank you for all you do. Especially putting up with Paul and Darren on Cardinals Underground. Here's my opinion, if you were the GM who would you pick to be the starting defensive players? You can pick the formation of your choice. Keep up the great work"

Appreciate the kind words! Darren wrote an article that is almost identical to what I have (way to go, Darren!). Defensive line: Justin Jones, Roy Lopez, Bilal Nichols. Outside Linebackers: Zaven Collins and Dennis Gardeck. Linebackers: Kyzir White and Mack Wilson Sr. Cornerbacks: Sean Murphy-Bunting and Max Melton. Safeties: Budda Baker and Jalen Thompson.

The Cardinals will continue to rotate players on defense to stay fresh and they'll also mix up their formations. I expect to see a lot of Garrett Williams as the nickel and playing with one fewer pass rusher or linebacker. I'm intrigued to see if we see more of a 4-3 front given the talent and experience brought into the D-line room this offseason to improve the run defense.

From Ken Moroney:

"Already this year, we have many defensive players injured. This has been the case the last several years compared to offensive player injuries. Can this be attributed to field conditions, weight room, trainers, intensity, or ANYTHING? It is a repetitive issue."

To be honest, I don't know who you're referencing. None of the defensive players have suffered new injuries to my knowledge. Every year teams look for ways to make sure their players are as safe and healthy as possible. An example of that is having BJ Ojulari shorten his stride, which head coach Jonathan Gannon said can help prevent hamstring injuries. Sometimes you just get bit by the injury bug the way the Cardinals did last season.

From Katie W:

"Besides Marvin, what rookie makes the biggest splash by the end of the season? And which rookie has the best personality? Thanks!

I'd have to go with defensive lineman Darius Robinson or cornerback Max Melton. I don't expect Robinson to be a starter come Week 1 considering the players above him on the depth chart, however, I do expect him to be in the rotation early and often until he gets his feet wet. Robinson has the size, length and intelligence to make an immediate impact. Besides Marvin Harrison Jr., Melton is the rookie most likely to be a starter, at least this early on. The sooner he can learn the playbook and adjust to the speed of the game, the quicker he'll be able to make those splash plays.

Honestly, I've enjoyed talking with all the rookies. Safety Dadrion Taylor-Demerson (aka "Rabbit"), probably has the biggest personality of the bunch.

From Mario M:

"Dani, thanks for all that you do and it's cool you're doing a mailbag. I want to know how you decided to pursue a job in the NFL? Was it something you always wanted to do?"

Long story short, I knew I wanted to work in sports since high school. Math and science were never my strong suits, and I knew I didn't want a typical desk job. I excelled in my English classes and after writing for my school's newspaper, I decided to explore journalism options and landed on studying broadcast journalism at the University of Missouri. I grew up mostly watching football and hockey and had fond memories of watching sports with my family. Thankfully, my efforts led me to covering sports right off the bat as both an editor and reporter at Fox Sports Southwest. From there, an opportunity arose with the Dallas Cowboys to be a team reporter and producer, and then a few years later, I found my way out here to the Valley.

From Jim Ballantine:

"From your POV, what was the vibe like around the office and Cards HQ building up to the draft, full well knowing the fans wanted Marvin? And not only then, but we saw the video of Kyler celebrating Marvin getting drafted. I cannot think that the staff of the Cardinals themselves weren't also secretly like 'please draft Marvin.' But obviously Monti was never going to show his intentions. Was everyone nervous, or did you guys have insider knowledge that Marvin was the guy, so it wasn't as stressful for you as it was us?"

I wish we were given inside knowledge on things like draft picks, but sadly we are not. The vibe around the building was pure excitement because even if the Cardinals didn't draft Harrison in some hypothetical scenario, Monti Ossenfort had already proven his ability to draft the right players and people. Don't get me wrong, when the pick was announced everyone was ecstatic because 1) We knew the fans would be thrilled and 2) Harrison Jr. is already a top receiver on this team with the ability to be an impact player for many years to come.

From Seany Mann:

"Dani, as a Dallas native are you a Mavs and Luka Doncic fan? Right answers only."

I'm a little nervous by not knowing what the "right" answer is here. (And by the way, this was written prior to Game 5, so hopefully this doesn't age poorly.) I was never a die-hard basketball fan growing up, but I did watch and even work on my fair share of Mavs games. Because I'm not a die-hard fan, I've been neutral between the Mavs and the Suns since moving out here if that's what you're asking. I think Doncic is entertaining to watch and it's always fun to rally behind the hometown team on the verge of winning a championship, knowing my friends and family who are die-hard fans will experience that euphoria.

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