This week, I sent five Qs over to Seth Cox from Revenge of the Birds and in kind he flew me back five As, bird to bird. Here’s some more of what you need to know about the personnel and coaching of the 2017 Arizona Cardinals.
Q: Drew Stanton has now spent four years with Bruce Arians, so I can't imagine you'd keep a quarterback around for that long if you had to simplify the offense for him or if you didn't trust him to be able to start for a stretch. Not that anyone would confuse Stanton for Carson Palmer, but is it less of a drastic fall-off from the offense as most might expect, especially given Palmer's recent struggles?
A: That's the thing. Bruce Arians has an unwavering faith in Drew Stanton. Not the, he knows the offense so we keep him around, type of faith, but the, we've seen what he can do and we still have signed him to multiple contracts type of faith. Arians doesn't change the offense, he just changes the way the game flow goes. He is not going to ask Drew Stanton to throw the ball 50+ times a game like he did with Carson Palmer, but he is still going to push the ball down the field, attack vertically and take risks.
He also is a good coach, so when he sees an advantage, he tries to take it. That meant running the ball with Adrian Peterson until it stopped working. It never did, so you get 37 carries. I don't expect that to be the case against a still great Seahawks defense. Yet, I also wonder if the Cardinals try and use Stanton too much if that plays into the Seahawks advantage as well.
You'll still see a lot of the same offense from the Cardinals, it will just be a little less effective with Stanton in place of Palmer.
Q: Tyrann Mathieu took to Twitter to respond to a Cardinals writer who said he got beat twice over the top, only to let the guy know that he wasn't meant to cover that route and that he was wrong about coverages. In your estimation, how well is Mathieu playing this season though? He was looking pretty dang valuable in 2015 and now he's become a bit of an afterthought to those of us not paying attention every week.
A: The problem is not necessarily Mathieu's play... As much as it is Mathieu's paycheck. If Mathieu was on a relatively inexpensive deal, no one would care. However, he is one of the highest paid defensive backs in the NFL and, at this point after multiple knee surgeries, an average player. I think that reality has begun to weigh on Mathieu a bit so we are seeing the backlash from him. First day of league 2018 (March 14th) his contract becomes guaranteed plus 8 mil of his 2019 salary. Two days later, a 5 mil roster bonus is added. He is not getting that in 2018, there is no way with the way he is playing at this point.
If you ask anyone that watches Mathieu week in and week out it is the coverage ability that has fallen off. Once considered the premier slot cornerback in the NFL, Mathieu is a guy who is consistently trailing his man and has forced defensive coordinator James Bettcher to play more zone schemes. Mathieu the in the box, near the line of scrimmage defender and blitzer looks almost identical to his 2015 style, but his lateral movement and start and stop ability seems to have dissipated behind the knee injuries.
Q: Whether it's his choice or the choice of the franchise, how likely is it that this is Bruce Arians' final season with the Cardinals? If it is his final season and Arizona misses the playoffs, how successful would you consider his tenure with the team, all things considered?
A: This is the most successful regular season coach on paper in the Cardinals history. That's why I have a hard time seeing Arians not back in 2018, unless he decides to step away. The Cardinals have not been playoff juggernauts, but from 2013-2015, that three year run was really good. They had some bad luck in 2014 with Carson Palmer's injury, then Drew Stanton's injury and still made it to the playoffs. 2015, they lost Tyrann Mathieu, their heart and soul on the defense, in a blowout game up 30 in Philadelphia.
That was really it. They tried to do it again the last two years, but it was too much to ask. Still, Arians will have the team at or around .500 when this is all said and done this season, I truly believe that. It may be to the detriment of the team moving forward, but he's a good coach who gets the most out of his players. Arians is four games away from being tied for the most wins in franchise history. He is five from being the top of that sad, sad mountain. In only five seasons if they get nine wins this year, that's 50 wins in five years... That's not awful.
Q: Can you sum these defensive players' 2017 seasons up in a sentence or two each? Deone Bucannon. Budda Baker. Robert Nkemdiche. Haason Reddick. Seems this is the future of Arizona's defense, if they are in fact playing well and making the right steps forward.
Bucannon - Athletic safety-to-linebacker convert who was praised as playing out of position... Except now he plays linebacker only, so his work as a linebacker should be graded as such. If you subscribe to Pro Football Focus grades, he is a bad linebacker. I don't think that is an accurate appraisal of his abilities, but I do think he is average (replaceable) because he plays out of position.
Baker - Playing mostly on special teams, has become an impact player as a gunner. Is getting the call from fans at this point to take over for Mathieu, for what we talked about above. Hasn't been great when in there on defense, but also, hasn't gotten the opportunities to get into a game flow.
Robert Nkemdiche - Finally getting some burn, 33 snaps against the Rams, 32 snaps against the 49ers. Has battle a calf injury for most of the year, but is getting healthy now. He makes one play a game that tantalizes you with the idea of what he can be.
Haason Reddick - Looked very good, very athletic, slightly slow on his reads, but his athleticism made up for it... Then Bucannon got healthy and he was moved out of the starting role... Then Markus Golden was injured and lost and now Reddick is playing as a situational pass rushing outside linebacker. It is unfortunate that he is being jerked around, similar to Baker, and not just being allowed to learn and play. He is going to be their inside linebacker next year, you'd like to see him getting the reps there.
Q: Is there a quarterback that the Cardinals have passed on, whether it was in the draft or in trade or free agency in the last few years, that you most wish they hadn't passed on? Could be a guy who you recognized at the time as a player you liked or in hindsight.
A: What we know... The Cardinals liked Blake Bortles in 2014, Marcus Mariota in 2015, Carson Wentz in 2016 and allegedly made a call to move up in this draft but balked at the price. In other words, they like unattainable players because Bruce Arians has a type. Bigger (6-3+), athletic within the pocket, big enough arm to push the ball down the field consistently on deep out routes, digs, etc. I think their biggest miss has been on passing on Derek Carr for Bucannon to then misplay Bucannon.
Was missing on Dak bad? Sure, but I truly believe he was never an option.
The biggest thing has been their fear of investment. The alleged balking at the price of a future 1st round pick is... interesting. Not many teams can find their quarterback in the second, third or fourth round. If you want someone enough, go get them. That is more what I lament than anyone outside Carr.