Topics include Kyler's offseason with teammates, continuity and a 'new' NFC South
Welcome back from Memorial Day, which normally is sports-laden but in the time of the coronavirus, not so much. Don't fret -- there is still a mailbag to be had. If you want to leave a question for next week, just go here.
From Brad Cain via azcardinals.com:
"Hi Darren. With Tom Brady getting his offense together to practice at a high school field, have you heard anything on Kyler Murray doing the same, or is this just more of the privileged Brady getting away with doing as he wishes and the NFL turning a blind eye?"
NFL rules only apply to the teams -- not the players on their own time. There were already QBs other than Brady getting together with teammates -- I remember seeing Dak Prescott at one point on social media -- and that's all Brady was doing (and to be clear, it wasn't Tampa's entire offense.) As for Murray, I have not heard anything concrete about him working with teammates, but that doesn't mean it hasn't happened.
From Matthew Stroh via azcardinals.com:
"Thank you for the mailbag, I love it. I've been a fan of Cardinals for many years. My Mom is a Rams fan since I was little and I became a fan when Warner came. I stayed a fan threw the dark years. I've been watching a lot of people make predictions of the Cardinals' record and final 53-man roster. I see a lot of the same mistakes in my opinion. They don't think our secondary is any good and half don't even put Robert Alford on the final roster. Why do people think the Cardinals secondary is going to be a weakness for 2020? What do you think of our secondary for 2020? Thank you again for everything you do. GO CARDS!"
I think the secondary has a chance to be pretty good. Patrick Peterson needs to play like he was the last month of the season, which is the expectation. Alford was playing well in camp last year before his injury. Byron Murphy got a ton of experience. Budda Baker is a Pro Bowler and I agree with my cohort Kyle Odegard that Jalen Thompson showed some promise last year. We'll see how it plays out. They all have to stay healthy. Things can happen -- I wouldn't have predicted in the offseason last year that D.J. Swearinger would've struggled so much to the point he was released. Predictions are just predictions. They don't matter so I don't think about it much.
From Jamie Brigg via azcardinals.com:
"Hello from Australia, Darren. I've seen a lot of news surrounding Kyler Murray's projected growth for the 2020 season. I was pleasantly surprised to see that there were several articles predicting Kyler to be in the running for MVP. Do you think these articles are well-founded or do you think they are unrealistically optimistic about Murray's supposedly breakout season?"
I think Kyler could have a great second season. I think those chances may be lessened to an extent given the loss of the offseason work. But I do think he could be really good in 2020. MVP is more than just about how the player does, of course. Can the Cardinals be one of the best teams in the league, which is an inevitable need when it comes to MVP votes? I think that part of the equation might be a more difficult climb than Kyler's individual performance.
From Jake Sundevil via azcardinals.com:
"When you have the same OC and DC year after year, does that imply the playbook is the same? I'm sure things are added and removed, but philosophies are essentially the same, and most importantly verbiage is the same? That way vets can roll in hot, already knowing everything. Or do they switch everything up every year in order to fool opponents? I guess if you had the same playbook and calls and verbiage then it would be easy for opponents to figure you out."
No, you are correct -- while they are tweaked year after year, the philosophy and verbiage remain the same, which is why the stability does matter. You want to change up from time to time the calls at the line itself, but the playcall within the huddle doesn't need to change. And that's why having that continuity from last season could mean a ton in a season with no offseason prep.
From Tom Cowley via azcardinals.com:
"Hi Darren, patience and fortitude! Howeva, appreciate your willingness to answer our questions, given the lack of info you are given by the NFL. I'm very interested what your take on the value and contribution coming from our new defensive line coach, Brentson Bucknerr. He has quite a job facing him with so many unknown players. Do our coaches have access to their unknown rookies' performance reports on which to build their personnel game plans as well as the new acquisitions? Is this a mission impossible now? Thanks."
The rookies aren't unknown, not like you imply. Buckner had significant insight and also some input on both Leki Fotu and Rashard Lawrence before they were drafted. And he was absolutely part of the discussion about bringing in Jordan Phillips. Is there a lot of work to do to bring the group together? Yes. But the holdover defensive linemen like Corey Peters and Zach Allen are going to be the same Vance Joseph system so they will have continuity even with Buckner coming on board.
From Michael Travers via azcardinals.com:
"Hello Darren, thanks again for this opportunity to talk about our Cardinals. As each day unfolds it appears there is the possibility of less and less time the team will have to practice on the grass. Coaching is going to be very vital to this team this year due to limited work opportunity. It appears that coach Vance Joseph truly understands how to integrate Isaiah Simmons to this team. With his talent it will be best to have him learn the one position before taking on more. Some have stated that Simmons is the next Lawrence Taylor with his skills matching the Giant great. If the Cardinals are fortunate enough by drafting a LT clone, do you believe this defense could be a top 10?"
Whoa, whoa, whoa. Before we start drawing parallels between arguably the greatest edge rusher in NFL history and a rookie (who is not an edge rusher), let's actually have him get inside the building first. At least. I mean, if you added an LT clone to this defense, uh, yeah, it'd be top 10. But I don't think that's what is happening here. Totally different players. Look, Simmons has a chance to have a major impact this year, and if he does, that goes a long way in how much more this defense can improve. But they also need what they expect from guys like Jordan Phillips and Devon Kennard and De'Vondre Campbell.
From Dave Cromwell via azcardinals.com:
"Hey Darren, I heard interesting conversation on the radio the other day talking about what the Cardinals are missing, and the answer was essentially a veteran backup QB. The type you bring on specifically to guide the young QB. The reason Josh McCown had a 20-year career was because he thrived in that roll. So they started talking hypotheticals, and one name that came up was Cam Newton. Hypothetical, I said, stop shaking your head. Assuming Cam was OK being a backup, he seems a great fit. His style was similar to Kyler's, and he became an MVP doing it. I thought it was great, albeit unlikely. What do you think about the Cam topic, as well as the question in general, regarding the vet QB who could be that non-threat guide to our young franchise QB?"
One, I don't really understand the "need of a veteran backup QB" thing. What exactly is Brett Hundley? He's a veteran, he's played games in this league and he's been around the block. Isn't that exactly what you're talking about? As for Cam, it doesn't make sense for this team IMO because, barring injury, there is zero chance he sees the field. There are teams out there who have starters where I'd think he'd have more of a chance to supplant them at some point. Unless Newton could see upside of working with Kliff Kingsbury (like Jameis Winston decided by going to work with Sean Payton), I don't see why he'd want to be in Arizona. Granted, he doesn't have an offer now, so maybe he would. But then, what are you paying? Where Newton ends up is a fascinating topic to me. The "non-threat" part sticks out -- not sure how a former MVP who should be a starter somewhere could ever not be a threat to play.
From John Dunne via azcardinals.com:
"Hello Darren, I really like what the Cardinals have done this offseason. My main question is at center. Is Mason Cole shown something that us fans haven't seen? He looked OK as a rookie. I'm just wondering if behind the scenes the organization has seen him get stronger and grab the bull by the horns to lock down the position? I'm not sure if A.Q. Shipley is still available but do you feel they have a plan In place or do they have a wait and see and let's hope all goes well attitude? Thanks Darren. You're the best."
Is there a plan? Yes. It's that Mason Cole is the center. Can things change? Perhaps. But they watched Cole all last season, not only in games but on the practice field, in the weight room. Does that guarantee success? No. But they clearly have faith he can do the job, otherwise they wouldn't have left themselves in this position. I am also curious to see how Lamont Gaillard might look in training camp.
From Boston Mike via azcardinals.com:
"Hey Darren, I was real happy to see the Cardinals re-signed Kevin Peterson. I thought he did good in emergency duties. Good depth guy. With that said, I'm a small bit concerned about our CB depth. We have PP, Alford and Murphy as 1-2-3. But then you think if one of these guys goes down, our depth at No. 4 ain't great. Now I'm happy about Kevin for exactly that reason. But don't you think we need to get deeper at CB, just in case? Or here's a thought -- is Simmons technically a CB depth guy?"
I would be surprised if Simmons were used at cornerback, unless it was some crazy emergency situation. You could always slide Budda Baker there if needed and perhaps use three safeties. I mean, would you love to have five or six good cornerbacks on the roster? Sure. But if everyone is healthy, that top four works. No team is going to be five cornerbacks deep.
From Bo Harshberger via azcardinals.com:
"Any further information on a Patrick Peterson contract extension? He is still a No. 1 corner and we cannot afford to lose him."
I have not heard anything but that does not surprise me. I'd think right now, most long-term extensions, even if they are a possibility, are going to be a slower go with so much unknown about the season (and the subsequent income streams/salary cap for 2021).
From Josie McMichaels via azcardinals.com:
"Bro, I'm the biggest Patrick Peterson fan. It really bothers me when fans get mad at him. I understand it, these people take things so personal, however P2 is such a great player and dude. Has he ever held out? No. Has he trashed the organization to get out? No. Guy shows up to work every day. I don't need to tell you, Darren, you know, but I'm just ranting. So I saw that article Kyle posted. Really good! P2 seems genuinely excited, as does Fitz. IF (big if) the team does turn into perennial contenders, do you think that extends Fitz's and P2's careers? It's hard to leave a playoff team right? Maybe it's wishful thinking, but I'd love to have these guys around for five more years and really push for that ring together. It's a shame it took so long, but better late than never."
While I'm not going to deny that being on a good team is better than the alternative, I don't think how they are doing in the win-loss column impacts directly their careers. Fitz stuck around after 2018 when there were still a whole lot of unknowns about the team. Both are scheduled for free agency after the season. We all know Fitz's situation, which is the same as always -- he won't figure out what he's doing for next season until after the current one has ended. As for Patrick, Steve Keim has said he would like Patrick to play his whole career in Arizona but, as always, it'll depend on the money and the two sides coming to an agreement. But when you are talking about five more years -- Fitz is going to be 37 in August, Peterson turns 30 in July. Five years beyond that is an eternity in NFL time.
From Ana Antonlini via azcardinals.com:
"Hi Darren. I'm a little confused how Isaiah Simmons will play linebacker when De'Vondre Campbell was paid good money to play there and Jordan Hicks is entrenched at the other spot. It makes no sense to say Simmons will be a sub-package guy or nickel guy. You don't spend that pick on a guy for him to be a part-timer. Simmons should arguably be on the field for every snap so I'm just curious how you think we do that with the two starting linebackers already entrenched."
I don't know if I'd use the word entrenched, when two of the three are brand new to the team. I understand, as I noted higher in this mailbag, why people are wondering how this will play out. But the Cardinals will figure it out. One thing that seems to get lost is that the Cardinals did not go into the offseason saying, "Let's add two starting-caliber inside linebackers in addition to Hicks." They signed Campbell because they did need someone to pair with Hicks. Simmons happened to fall to them in the draft. What if the Panthers had taken Simmons and the Cards took Derrick Brown? Totally different, and you can't know that ahead of time. And you can't pass on a talent like Simmons just because you happened to sign Campbell. Campbell was confident there would be room for all of them, and I'm guessing they will find a way. Those discussions have happened quite a bit already.
From Garth Short via azcardinals.com:
"I'll phrase this as a question even though I just want to make a point. I want you to know just how much I enjoyed the latest Flight Plan episode. It made me proud to be a fan of the Cardinals, and I'd like to ask what you thought of the latest episode compared to other episodes?"
I think highly of all the Flight Plan episodes. What Tim DeLaney and his Flight (Plan) crew do to pull together any particular episode is always a heavy lift, and to be able to do it under the circumstances of the coronavirus is even more impressive. I think fans are incredibly curious to see things behind the scenes anyway, and to see it in these times are even more insightful.
From Troy J via azcardinals.com:
"Hi Darren, just got a little fun one here for you. With the movement of teams (St. Louis to LA/Oakland to Las Vegas/San Diego also to LA) there has been talk about division realignment. Probably fantasy, but still fun to talk about in these dog days of the offseason. So based on geographic realignment, my new division would be the NFC South, and it would be:
Dallas Cowboys Houston Texans Las Vegas Raiders Arizona Cardinals
I love it. Getting to road trip up to Vegas once a year sounds splendid. Also getting that game in Jerry's World would be great (I've never been). And the Texans, which would make the next five years of Hopkins career really fun. What do you think? Any pitfalls you can think of? I think it looks great."
Well, you are pulling two teams from the AFC so that means two teams have to go from the AFC to the NFC. My first thought is what happens to the rest of the league with their new spots. (We won't even go into the fact the Cowboys will never leave the Eagles, Giants and Redskins from the NFC East, which is why Dallas remained in that division even through the last realignment in 2002.) Personally, though, as someone who takes these trips, I'd rather visit the Bay Area and Seattle and L.A. than Dallas, Houston and Vegas. I always felt like Houston and Dallas were very Phoenix-like. Of course, that's just my opinion.
From Perry Walker via azcardinals.com:
"I would like to see Leki Fotu run the ball at the goal line. I want to see who has the huevos to step in front of a 'semi' with the hammer down. Are the Cardinals thinking about using any of Leki's rugby skills?"
That would be kind of cool to see -- but my first thought would be to get Fotu transitioned into the NFL as the defensive lineman that he is before worrying about folding him into the offense in any capacity.
From Peter Kacmar via azcardinals.com:
"Hi Darren. Thanks for your time you spend regularly answering our questions. Now with team facilities allowed to reopen I wonder how many people roughly are employed by the Cardinals? Apart from some 100 players I would assume there must be at least the same number of all kind of other positions. What entity acts as an employer?"
I don't know the employee numbers but you could always look at the staff page. And each NFL team is its own business, working within an umbrella of the NFL.
From DD Jones via azcardinals.com:
"I know anything is possible, but could you talk a little about the feasibility and fit of bringing back Tony Jefferson? In my opinion, of all of the 'we should get so-and-so' guys, Tony makes the most sense. Markus Golden is highly unlikely."
I think there could still be a chance to bring in a veteran safety. I don't know if that would mean Jefferson. Would he be OK in a reserve role if that's what they needed? Jalen Thompson seemed to be trending up at the end of the season. As for Golden, yes, that seems unlikely. We've talked about depth at edge rusher before, and there was a report that the Cards showed interest at some point with veteran Everson Griffen, who went to high school in Avondale.
From Camren Jenks via azcardinals.com:
"Hey Darren, assuming he's healthy do you think Marcus Gilbert is the favorite to secure the right tackle job? And also do you think Josh Jones predominantly competes at RT, or do you think they view him as the No. 1 left tackle backup? It's pretty important they figure out which they want him to focus on, as LT and RT are very different jobs. Don't want to stretch him too thin learning both. It seems like RT is pretty deep between Gilbert and Murray. It would be smart to give some depth at LT between Humphries and Jones. Thanks."
While I don't disagree that it's smart to narrow a rookie's focus as much as possible, I don't think it's too much to ask a tackle to learn both sides of the line, no more so than asking a receiver to know different WR spots. In this case, I think Gilbert's experience -- assuming health -- would make him the favorite. But Jones will play on the right side. The idea will be for Humphries and Jones to be your bookends for the near-future. Whether that means Jones is right tackle full time in 2020 or 2021, that's where they are going to see how he does.
From Oscar P via azcardinals.com:
"Hey Darren. I know it's early but I think we can reasonably assess the situation we're dealing with here. Would you say the 2020 Cards Camp open-to-fans practices may be in danger? So long as we get a football season, I think that's all anybody cares about. But I'm looking at the calendar in comparison with the COVID-19 curve and it's not looking great for those practices we all love attending. What do you think?"
Well, obviously these things are decided (and discussed) above my pay grade, so I don't know anything concrete. I'm not sure anyone can say anything concrete yet about what happens in August. But yes, I'd think open-to-fans practices could very well be impacted this year. What will be interesting will be if the decision is made that it would be unwise to have open practices, might the Cardinals just have camp at their training facility? I'm not sure what it is all going to look like -- camp, the preseason, the regular season.
From Ari Tramdon via azcardinals.com:
"I saw your appearance on the 'Around The NFL Podcast.' You're a good interview. Any thoughts to doing the radio thing full-time?"
I appreciate the compliment. I'm pretty happy with my current gig -- I have plenty of chances, from our own Cardinals Underground podcast to the hour I appear during the pre-game radio block to various interviews, to voice my voice. I don't know if I need a full-time radio job.
From Greeney Wallace via azcardinals.com:
"Hi Darren. So I type this laughing, because I know how you feel about these questions, I am coming from a place of peace and positive vibes ... but the uniforms. Mike (Bidwill) commented finally about them. And essentially said nothing is in the works. That's fine. Not upset, however I am little confused. Because Mike said something could happen someday, but not now. They listen to the fans, but do they? Do they really hear what Darren Urban has had to deal with on a weekly basis for the last five years? I kinda think they don't actually hear the complaints like you do. I almost wish we got the new unis just so you could get a break. You get more calls about uniforms than Cintas."
Thanks for looking out for me, Greeney. I think I can handle it. Trust me, they hear fans on a variety of subjects. I don't know what will happen down the road with the uniforms. But I assure you, they aren't going to base any part of the decision to spare me from questions from the fans.
From SW via azcardinals.com:
"Everyone knows that Coach's doppelganger is Ryan Gosling. Saw Owner Mike Bidwill from the side in Flight Plan last week and realized that Jason Bateman will be playing him in the movie that chronicles the Cardinals' Super Bowl run this year. The obvious actor to play Steve Keim is the guy who played the Mountain in Game of Thrones. So, what actor looks enough like you to play you in the movie? Is Pee Wee Herman a good comp for Paulie? Who is going to play Kyle?"
I am hurt and disappointed you didn't think of Christian Bale to play me. Or at least Marc Price. Maybe we can crowd-source who might work as the actors for Kyle and I. And how could you do Paul like that?