Topics include linebacking corps, coaching staff makeup and uniforms
The NFL heads into championship game weekend. The mailbag rolls on. To leave a question for a future mailbag, you can go here.
From Alan Noonkester via azcardinals.com:
"Greetings Mr. Urban. I was just skimming over the opponents set for 2021 and it looks like a rather difficult schedule. I also noticed that there were quite a few teams in the mix that use the 3-4 defense scheme. From my understanding, two tight end sets make it really difficult on this type of defense. If this is the case, would it be more beneficial to get another tight end for this season or do you see us with a dire need at WR?"
To begin with, I'm not sure this is an either-or situation. I think the Cardinals could use another tight end, but I think they definitely need another wide receiver. In terms of building the roster to offset defenses on the schedule, that's a dangerous way to go. I mean, it's one thing to get a particular player for your division -- think Isaiah Simmons, with the upscale tight ends in the NFC West -- but I think your overall roster needs to work for what your scheme and your coaches are looking for, rather than the opponents. That can be handled on the week-to-week game plan.
From Bryan Olson via azcardinals.com:
"With an eye towards next season while thinking about the uncertainty at linebacker, I'm interested in your thoughts/feedback for the position. Should we expect Chandler to be available for OTAs or camp? Also, With so many FAs at the position and limited cap space, do you think we see an opportunity for Evan Weaver? We didn't hear much about him this year. With one year left on Hicks contract, maybe Evan is the future at that spot. Do you have any information you can share about how he has progressed? if I remember correctly, the word in Weaver was that his skills are a generation too late, or that he fits more of a Brian Urlacher mold than De'Vondre Campbell. How do his skills compare to Hicks?"
I do expect Chandler to be back for at least some of the offseason -- assuming there is an offseason. As far as Weaver goes, we don't get to watch practice, so I don't know what kind of progress he's made specifically. Having never seen him in a game, even preseason, it's so hard to know how he will fit on the NFL level. The key for me is the kind of speed Weaver might be able to show -- so much of inside linebacker play right now is about the ability to move sideline to sideline. As Hicks gets older, his speed will only diminish. Simmons, of course, is at ILB as his main spot because of that speed. Does Weaver have enough in that regard?
From Michael Sonzinho via azcardinals.com:
"Hi Darren! Love the mailbag! I'm a big fan and keeping track of Cardinal records and enjoy seeing David Johnson climb up the team's all-time touchdown list. I have read rumors that Houston might part ways with him due to cap concerns. If that were to happen, he would be a much cheaper option than Drake. Any chance DJ comes back to the Cardinals?"
No, Johnson isn't coming back. First we will have to see what Houston does with him. I don't know he would necessarily be a "much cheaper" option than Drake. I think the running back market is always interesting and this offseason in particular will be something to watch.
From Sidney Sexson via azcardinals.com
"Like many fans I was surprised when Chris Streveler was made the backup instead of Brett Hundley. But once it happened I thought there are going to be some Taysom Hill-type plays put into the game plans. I even thought they might use him for short yardage quarterback sneak type plays. But to the best of my memory I only remember him being used once for a quarterback run prior to the Rams game. I doubt we will keep him as the backup quarterback but if we do I hope Kliff will get more creative with his use. I also thought they might do a gadget play using Leki Fotu as a short-yardage runner. It seemed with his athleticism and rugby background he may of had some success. Maybe next year?"
In terms of Streveler, he twice was used as QB on short yardage early in the season. Once to sneak for a first down, another time on a play to Christian Kirk, who picked up a first down. I too thought he might be used a bit more in that role. But I think, especially after Kyler Murray's hot start, that the desire to take Kyler off the field went away. And that's understandable. As far as Fotu, the Cards have so few plays that would even fit having a Fotu in the backfield, much less a spot for him to run from. Maybe that changes this offseason. They wanted to have Fotu learn his defensive role too, and I'm not sure they would have wanted him to have to think about offense too.
From Tzur Perets via azcardinals.com:
"Hi Darren, why in the NFL is there is so much disloyalty to the head coach. The Eagles' coach got fired and it was shocking given the fact that he guided them to a Super Bowl win. Is this an organizational thing, like there is more loyal franchises, or this is the norm?"
For the most part, each coaching situation is going to be its own entity. There are some exceptions. The Steelers (who have obviously had a lot of success) have had only three head coaches since 1969 and whenever they have had a dip, their ownership tends to stay the course. In the Eagles' case, it sounds like there was a disconnect between what Pederson wanted to do with his coaching staff and what ownership felt should be done. There is a lot of pressure in this league to win, and not a lot of patience. Fans usually have little patience too. In the end, winning is what matters and if you don't win enough, teams are going to try a different leader.
From Steven Owens via azcardinals.com:
"Hey Darren, looking at this past season, it was frustrating to see how inconsistent/flat the Cards were, especially in games we should have won and must-win situations. It seems like the wind just left the sails somewhere along the line. Is it because of predictable playcalls, defenses adjusting to contain Murray, or just growing pains? Also, what do you think is that 'it' factor we need for a successful 2021 season? Thanks!"
I wish I could tell you. I will say I don't see when they were playing "flat" that it would be something directly tangible. The reasons you suggest all are part of the equation at times. And while I think the Cardinals ultimately underachieved this season, I do think they were a better team than they were in 2019. I'm not someone who subscribes to an "it" factor. You need a talent upgrade in spots and you need to be much more consistent on offense. Some of that means better execution by the players, some of that likely means Kliff adjusting how the offense is run.
From Boston Mike via azcardinals.com:
"The one-legged Kyler RPO on third-and-18. That wasn't just a play among plays. That was the smoking gun. That was the moment Cardinals fans realized Kliff will never be the guy. And we would like an explanation."
Just to clarify, not an RPO. It was an option play. Unfortunately, given everything else that was happening at the end of the season and after the game, Kliff was not asked specifically about that playcall. My only guess is that it was likely two-down territory and the hope was that could pick up a chunk of yards the Rams weren't expecting to make a fourth-down easier. It was a strange call given Murray's ankle problem. But making it about one play is disingenuous to me, just like making it about one win or loss. I would guess those that have issue with Kingsbury would whether or not that play ever was called or happened.
From Matthew Stroh via azcardinals.com:
"AFTER 8-8 FIRE EVERYBODY THEY SAY! I think it's a terrible idea to fire anybody. I hear a lot of fans saying it's because we aren't good. We not winning games. I agree it was hard to watch games this year. But a lot of successful franchises have is multiple years with same coach and quarterback. I think if the coach and quarterback take this offseason and really look at their tape of all the games, I believe the best chances we have to have a great year next year is to keep coaching the same. Also I like Patrick Peterson but I do believe in the draft we need a young speed CB. I believe this year our CBs were playing off man a lot on the speed WR because they couldn't keep up. What you think Darren? P.S. thank you so much for your no bullstart answers. I respect you so much for that you don't tell us what we want to know just your opinion. GO CARDS."
There was never going to be a head coaching change this year, and I agree -- I think having some stability absolutely matters, especially with a young quarterback. It doesn't mean you choose stability over everything else, but to me it has to be a consideration. Look, there is no question is will be a big offseason and season for Kingsbury. Everyone is waiting for that next step. As far as cornerback, I do think finding a young cornerback is paramount and a strong possibility in the first round, depending who is there. I don't know if the scheme was about the Cards' cornerback speed per se, but at that position, slow doesn't help. At most positions, slow doesn't help.
From Mark Hogan via azcardinals.com:
"Hi Darren. In a recent blog post you speculated that another coach could assume more managing duties and Kingsbury could focus on playcalling. How do you think that would play out, i.e would there be title changes like co-Head Coach? And do you think that person is in the building, like a Vance Joseph, or are you thinking further afield?"
First, when you say speculated, that's literally all it is. And I just wondered aloud because Kingsbury himself talked about playing to his strengths. I don't know if there would be someone added, or if they just made sure another coach already on staff would help in certain areas more often. Maybe it won't happen at all, and Kingsbury will just work hard on improving that part of his game. One thing I can say for certain: There will be no "co-head coach." Never.
From Victor Mialdea via azcardinals.com:
"Hello Darren, love the mailbag! My question is about your personal opinion on the uniforms. You respond hundreds of questions a year about a change in the uniforms but I was wondering if you think it would be good or necessary. Do you like the current uniforms? And who makes the ultimate decision on a change? The owner? Or does Nike have the last word on it as it will affect their revenue (indirectly)? Thanks in advance and love from Spain."
Michael Bidwill would have the say on if anything were to happen. There would be a process if that decision was made, but first he would have to make that call. As far as my personal opinion, I get why so many fans would like something different. In a lot of ways, it's the world we live in now, with some college teams sporting 72 different looks. Do I think it's necessary? No. It's a uniform. Would it be good? Maybe for some fans. But on my list of things I think about and/or am concerned about with the franchise, I can't say the uniforms are high on my personal list.