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You've Got Mail: Vikings Week

AZC_CardinalsMailbag

The Cardinals got their first win of the season in San Francisco, but obviously, issues remain on both sides of the ball. So with that as the backdrop and a trip to Minnesota this weekend, on to your questions. As always, if I didn't get to yours specifically, I likely have answered one similar.

From Jerry Brown via azcardinals.com:

"The 49ers gained huge chunks of yardage on screen passes against us. I can't remember the last time we defended them well (including the Arians era). Why are we so bad at defending them (and running them on offense for that matter)? Also, it looked like Rodney Gunter had a strong game vs the 49ers. Do you agree?"

Even going into the game last week, defensive coordinator Al Holcomb said he thought the 49ers and coach Kyle Shanahan could use the Cards' defensive aggressiveness against them, and the screen plays were the result. Clearly, if that isn't fixed, opponents will just continue to exploit the problem. As far as running them, David Johnson and Josh Rosen pulled off a nice screen against the Seahawks. I would think with Johnson, the opportunity for some better screens are there.

As for Gunter, I would agree that he had a strong game, and in fact, that was probably one of Gunter's best games he's had, if not the best.

From Kenny Williams via azcardinals.com:

"I didn’t watch the game but was tracking it and saw a lot of incomplete passes on short attempts. Was there a problem with drops again, or were there concerns with Rosen’s execution?"

Josh Rosen was definitely more inaccurate against the 49ers, but there were three drops on relatively short attempts -- one each to Chad Williams, Christian Kirk and Chase Edmonds.

I do not know why Johnson has not been used more in the passing game. The Cardinals said that would be increased a couple weeks ago, but it obviously has not, and it would seem to only help the offense if they were to do so. As far as the run plays, that's what is being called. The offensive line has not been getting the push it should on many plays, but it's fair to ask if the Cardinals might change up Johnson's path sometimes going forward.

From Steve Drumm via azcardinals.com:

"With both Deone Bucannon and Haason Reddick playing as backups and apparently not a fit for Wilks defense might they be candidates for the trading block? If so, what kind of trade compensation do you think each player would be worth?"

I would doubt they are on the trading block. In both cases, I think they are still trying to figure out how and if they will fit the defense. In Reddick's case, given that he's only in his second year -- and how he did some good things Sunday in San Francisco -- I think there is a lot more exploring to be done on that front. Bucannon is in the final year of his contract. If you made the decision to let him go, it might make more sense to have it be in free agency where he would be worth potentially a higher comp pick than you could get in trade.

From Troy Ezeh via azcardinals.com:

"David Johnson may be getting the TDs but for some reason he’s just not getting those chunk yards on the ground like 2016. Do you think its because of the O line or the play calling? If he can get it going that will go a long way for opening up the passing game for Rosen."

I think all of that plays into the running game issues right now. A lot of times, there are just too many defenders in the box waiting on Johnson when he runs the ball. They need more production on the ground to help Rosen, definitely.

From Dean Flatt via azcardinals.com:

"Why when we are having trouble stopping the run, do we keep playing with 2 LB's and 5 DB's so much? Felt like we played nickel the majority of the game."

This, I believe, comes down to two reasons. One, many times the other team has three wide receivers in formation and the Cardinals want to be able to defend such in the passing game. Two -- and this has become pretty clear -- the Cardinals want to get who they see as their best defenders on the field, and at this point, three safeties in Budda Baker, Antoine Bethea and Tre Boston trump any three-linebacker group they can come up with at the moment.

From Neil Sweigart via azcardinals.com:

"I was optimistic about our O-line at the beginning of the year but it appears they can't move anybody. Are they all that inadequate? They certainly must be the biggest question mark on offense."

There are still other question marks. This team is still trying to figure out its wide receiver corps, and tight end to a certain extent. But yes, the offensive line hasn't done as well as they had hoped. Let me rephrase that -- the pass protection actually has been a little better than predicted. But for a group that was expected to excel in the run, there has not been the consistency there to clear the way for David Johnson.

From Kendall Rowe via azcardinals.com:

"How do you feel about the signing of Kendall Wright?"

How do I feel? That seems irrelevant. They signed a veteran who might be a little more consistent catching the ball. Since J.J. Nelson has barely been getting snaps anyway, I'd think if Wright were to come in and get any kind of significant playing time, it would be at the expense of Chad Williams' reps. There is always the possibility the Cardinals will explore more four-receiver plays with Rosen at QB. We will ask Steve Wilks about it Wednesday.

From Eric Stevens via azcardinals.com:

"Who do you sit with on the team plane? Do players read your articles and our comments?"

Usually I'm sitting with my fellow writer Kyle Odegard. As for the players, sometimes they let me know they've seen what I have written, and I am sure they had read at times when they don't say anything. But I feel confident that it isn't all the time. As for the comments, perhaps they do once in a while, but no one has ever told me. If you were them, would you read the comments?

From Williams LaFlamme via azcardinals. com:

"Why isn't Larry Fitzgerald getting more balls thrown his way? He seems healthy enough to block, should be healthy enough to be included in the game plan,unless he's being phased out. If he is, is that what he wants also? Just seems several times in critical third downs he may have given us a better chance of converting. Is there a problem between the old personnel and the new?"

Fitz isn't being phased out. Both of Rosen's touchdown passes had a first read to Fitz, as a matter of fact, but in both cases, the defenses blanketed him and the right move was to throw it to Chad Williams and Christian Kirk, respectively. I haven't watched all the video in terms of where Fitz is on the third downs when he does not have the ball. I would think he'd have it thrown his way more, yes. But it's not like they are running him around on the field with plays designed everywhere but to him.

I don't think for a moment that if Wilks suddenly started exploding on people during a game that it would change how the Cardinals defend the run, or make Rosen's misfires more accurate against the 49ers, or help the offensive line clear holes in the running game. I get that fans get frustrated when the coach isn't getting as upset during a game as they are -- I heard all the same complaints about Ken Whisenhunt. But that is not Wilks' personality. In the two decades I've covered this team, that kind of stuff rarely inspires as much as the movies might make it seem.

From Junior Galvaredo via azcardinals.com:

"1. Where's TJ Logan? 2. How did Baltimore cure John Brown when we couldn't? 3. Any thoughts to bringing Dansby back for a 5th time? 4. Has Bene officially supplanted Taylor as #2 CB? 5. With Rosen clearly being the starter from now forward, will Bradford be released next year or must he be kept?

  1. Logan is around but unless an injury hits, they don't have a role for him. They prefer Chase Edmonds as Johnson's backup. 2. Sometimes, a player needs a change of scenery. I think Smoke falls into that category. 3. I'm afraid Karlos' career is likely over -- it reminds me of the comment Larry Fitzgerald often says, how you don't retire in this league, the league retires you. 4. Yes he has. 5. Nobody has to be kept. There is a team option for 2019. Assuming Rosen stays healthy, I would think the Cards go in a different direction for a 2019 backup, but we will see.

I think for the most part Cardinals fans do appreciate Patrick Peterson. I think it's harder to see that right now, because of the many (fair) concerns the fans notice about the team at the moment.

From Vic via azcardinals.com:

"Teams are running between the tackles on the Cards DL easily this season. The new staff switched to a 4-3 and the defense, with mostly the same players in the front seven, is getting pushed around more easily in the box. It appears to me that the Cards don’t have the right personnel for the 4-3. Have you heard anything from the staff on this?"

They have not publicly talked about the personnel not working with a 4-3 alignment, although they are still mixing and matching spots during games. I think this is a defense that relies heavily on linebackers, and it sure seems that the staff is trying to figure out how they want to proceed at that position.

From Joy Brooks via azcardinals.com:

"With the Cards having what could arguably be the worst o-line in the NFL, it seems near impossible for them to gain straight ahead rushing yards. Many years ago, they had a great back named Larry Centers who could take a short screen pass outside and turn it into a long gain. Why don't they try that with David Johnson? And also to the running game, seems they made a huge mistake letting Penny go in favor of our so-called fullback."

You can see above in the notion of using Johnson more as a receiver. As for Elijhaa Penny, as much as I personally liked him, his absence is not a factor in how this running game has gone.

From Darren Peterson via azcardinals.com:

"The Cardinals' offense continues to look stagnant and predictable, and the time of possession between cards and opponents is insane. Defense is exhausted throughout the game because of it. Do you see it possible for any coaching staff changes at any point in the season or are us fans overreacting?"

Everyone can decide on their own about how they want to react. But as I said previously, as of now, I do not see in-season coaching changes.

From Nick Hewitt via azcardinals.com:

"Do you think the rotation at linebacker besides Josh Bynes has been purely schematic for the offense we are facing that week or is coach Wilks giving each player a start to see if one will step up and claim that starting role?"

After Wilks talked about it a little Monday, I think there is something to be said about giving all these players a look to see who will step up. But I do think there is a matchup element to it -- it made sense for Bucannon to be out there against Russell Wilson, for instance.

From Rich Scott via azcardinals.com:

"What do you think the ceiling is for Chad Williams? I know the last staff felt like he could be the guy to whom Larry “passes the torch”, but what’s your perception of how this staff feels about his upside?"

Williams is still feeling his way around, but as I noted earlier in this mailbag, if Kendall Wright has a role, it's likely going to come at a cost from Williams in terms of snaps.

From Doug Keller via azcardinals.com:

"What is making our run defense so ineffective? It can't always be gap assignment and mental errors like are the excuses said after the game."

Why can't it always be those things? I assume you are making the sub-argument that it must be talent and/or coaching, but in both those cases, that flows from things like gap assignment and mental errors. Stopping the run is a fairly simple concept, really. Plug all the holes for the runner and make the tackle. If you aren't in the holes, for whatever reason, you'll be run upon.

From Garth Short via azcardinals.com:

"I was depressed when I realized that we would be tied with a number of teams for the #1 overall draft pick, but was reminded that Las Vegas would (probably) have us favorite to win one more game, and the first pick should be a lock. Am I correct?"

While I have seen your name around here before, Garth, I do not know you personally. So alas, I do not know if you are depressed or not.

(Also, it's October. I'm not getting into draft order in October.)

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