Arizona Cardinals Birdgang mailbag: Daryl Washington, Dan Williams, running backs


In the first installment of our mailbag series, Seth Cox answers 5 reader questions.

When I started writing here at Revenge of the Birds, I wanted to have a place to talk about different aspects of the game.

With the change in the coaching staff from top to bottom it's made analyzing things a little more difficult at this time; it will have to be done more in season and starting in the pre-season, simply because outside of the offense, there are too many unknowns.

Yet as I was perusing the comment section over the last couple of days here at ROTB it got me thinking that one of the things I try to do, but don't succeed nearly enough at is answer questions that are asked at the end of my articles.

I know some, if not most, are not directed at me, but they're in the comments sections in my articles, so I'm grabbing my favorites, or the one's that made me laugh, and addressing those.

I'd like to make this a weekly thing, so if you have Cardinals, NFL or college prospect related questions feel free to leave me a comment, tweet me or send me an email to

Let's get the Birdgang Mailbag started:

Jess Reynolds: When Wash is back do you foresee him being used as an edge rusher on passing downs because of his ability to both cover and get to the QB? I think the addition on Dansby allows for some creative flexibility.

Seth Cox: In a 3-4 lining Washington up outside doesn't make a lot of sense to me. There's a difference in being able to bend the edge rushing the passer, and jumping the offensive line on a blitz.

Washington excels at beating people off the snap inside, and I am sure he would be good for a couple of pressures a game on straight speed rushes off the edge, but if we're talking 20-30 snaps a game as an edge rusher, I don't think that will be the best utilization of Washington's skills.

On the coverage side, Washington is secretly bad in pass coverage, according to (paid subscription required) Washington allowed 36 catches on only 49 targets, for 389 yards, one touchdown and one nterception, and a 94.7 passer rating.

Any chance of Washington lining up in man coverage more is not something I'd advocate... right now.

Sentinel623: Is it possible to run a combination of 1 and 2 gap schemes where Williams would still be asked to occupy the center and either guard, freeing Washington/Dansby to make plays while the other ILB occupies the opposite guard?

SC: In a 3-4 it can be tough based just because of the sheer lack of numbers up front, but in an offset 4-3 (over/under) it is more common place.

In the 3-4 if you theoretically have Williams playing a two gap, occupying both A gaps, you'll then need to have Dockett maintain the weak side B gap, the outside backer take contain on the weak side, the SILB take the strong side B gap, and Calais holding down the strong side C gap. That leaves the strong side OLB having outside contain. All the gaps are maintained, but that leaves the safeties and Washington, all who struggle taking on blocks at the point of attack, having to make all the plays. If any payer gets moved or blocked it could mean a huge gainer for the offense.

Like I said, it could work, and you'll see instances where Campbell/Williams are working the two gap and Dockett is moving in a one gap technique, but having both defensive ends attacking single gaps just puts too much stress on the linebacking corp to make plays.

Azusa_PacificCardinal: What do you think about A.J. McCarron or Aaron Murray at QB or Zack Martin (Notre Dame) at OT? Are they names worth keeping an eye on this upcoming season or do they not fit with our new system?

SC: To be blunt, I am not a fan of McCarron or Murray as a QB in the Arians offense... and really not a fan of either as "franchise" quarterbacks coming out.

McCarron has managed many a games, continually has one of the best offensive lines and running games college football has seen, and typically is able to get big plays off one on one coverage to dynamic receivers down the field, albeit he doesn't hit the ball in front of his receiver consistently enough (one of the reasons they lost the Texas A&M game.

As for Murray, he's got a little Russell Wilson in him style-wise, but Wilson is such an anomaly of a prospect that you can't expect to hit the same proverbial jackpot.

Now don't take that as Murray being nearly as good as Wilson was, he doesn't have the pocket presence, isn't nearly as comfortable playing through the trash, and overall takes advantage of the weaker teams on the schedule.

Food for thought, Murray finished 2012 with 36 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, but against the three best defenses he faced Murray's numbers were abysmal:

41/88 46.5% 524 yards 2 TDs 5 INTs

In other words, terrible.

I'll give my final thoughts on each player as the season goes along, but initially speaking I don't see either as fits in the Arians system.

As for Zack Martin, the general consensus right now is he'll slide down to guard in the NFL. He actually reminds me of Justin Pugh, who was taken in round one in the 2013 draft.

If the Cardinals are looking at a left tackle in the 2014 NFL Draft, they likely will be drafting early, so they should be in play for one of the big names.

Cardinalswillriselikeaphoenix: Taylor and Ellington are In, and with Mendenhall and Williams on the roster as well, Keim and BA will find a #1 and #2 back capable of moving the ball 100+ yards a game I'm sure of it. We look better at RB than any year in recent memory.

SC: I took this comment to address a small quibble with this line of thought.

It's been talked about before, at least by me, but Arians is a one running back type of coach. He wants a player that can stay on the field for the entire game, so to speak.

Arians goal is to use 2010 as his model of what he wants in a running back, in which Rashard Mendenhall saw a staggering 614 snaps played, including 324 on run plays (per PFF), with the next running back accounting for 253 snaps.

The total snaps played for Maurkice Pouncey was 1009, which was the highest number of snaps played by any one player on the Steelers, that means Mendenhall was on the field for 61% of the snaps, and the next highest running back was on the field for only 25% of the snaps.

More importantly though, if the total number of plays running the ball by running backs was 419, that means Mendenhall accounted for an astonishing 77% of the carries, and the next closest running back only received 12.6% of the carries.

Barring injury, whoever emerges as the number one running back on the roster is going to get the bulk of the carries, because that is Arians offensive philosophy.

Cmcinaz: I disagree on Dan Williams and Daryl Washington who have both respectively lost weight and gained weight. In fact, Big Dan will be a better NT in this scheme. He was drafted for this scheme and looked out of position in the 2 gap. Daryl continues to fill out into an NFL body and he's plenty big enough at the WIL.

SC: Williams' strength has never been getting penetration into the opposing backfield; he's a classic run stuffing, clog the middle type defensive tackle.

Asking him to become a one gap penetrating type is going to diminish his play, and over the last two seasons we've seen flashes of brilliance, as a run defender in 2012 Williams there were a handful of defensive tackles that were better than Big Dan, and coming in and changing how he plays is troubling to me.

As for Washington, I don't think there are many, if any analyst that want Washington restricted to a gap assignment type linebacker.

It is taking him out of his playmaking element, and puts the pressure on him to hold up play after play of taking on, stacking, and shedding blocks.


That will wrap up the first Birdgang Mailbag, as I said a little earlier, I'd like to make this a regular thing, so if you have any questions, please feel free to send me an email, subject Birdgang Mailbag, or leave a comment or tweet me.

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