Cardinals 'For Real,' Per Albert Breer of SI.com

Howard Balzer

Every Thursday, SI.com’s Albert Breer has a mailbag in which he posts questions from readers along with his answers.

This week, there was one on the Cardinals and one on the Lions, the team's Week 3 opponent.

From Michael Margolis: Are the Arizona Cardinals for real?

"Michael, if by for real, you mean a playoff contender, then yeah, I think that Arizona’s for real. Kyler Murray’s taken the step the Cardinals hoped he would, DeAndre Hopkins has been worth the price they paid, and the defense has been better than anyone expected—with additions like De’Vondre Campbell blending right in and young guys like Byron Murphy and Zach Allen showing signs of breaking out.

"But to me maybe the most pleasant surprise of all is what’s in front of Murray. The offensive line was an abomination two years ago, before Kliff Kingsbury and Murray arrived, and it’s not like the team has taken big draft-pick or free-agent swings at fixing what went wrong in 2018. More so, they’ve gone in on smart, under-the-radar pickups, in bringing in vets like J.R. Sweezy and Kelvin Beachum.

"Being able to add that way (they also drafted promising reserve tackle Josh Jones in the third round) was huge in Murray’s development. It also freed the team to spend resources elsewhere (see: Hopkins, DeAndre). Now, to be sure, it’s not like we’re talking about a top-five line here, and Murray himself helps mitigate issues with his mobility. But it’s still impressive, given where they were.

"And it gives them a real chance in what’s a wide-open NFC West."

From Jay Tee: Are the Detroit Lions better off now or better when Martin Mayhew was their GM? Seems to me they're going backward AGAIN.

"Jay, I think on balance Mayhew did a good job—and he’s a respected voice in one of the NFL’s best front offices now, out in San Francisco. But there were things that cost him in the eyes of ownership. One was the mess of the 2011 draft, when the Lions (and Jim Schwartz deserves blame for this, too) took three red-flagged players consecutively, in Nick Fairley, Titus Young and Mikel Leshoure.

"The memory of those sorts of things can linger, and they did when Martha Ford, who’d just taken over as controlling owner, was assessing how to address a 1–7 mess halfway through the 2015 season. Both Mayhew and team president Tom Lewand got whacked for it, and it’s not that difficult to understand why that happened. The Lions had made the playoffs just twice in the 15 years previous to that 1–7 beginning five years ago.

"Bob Quinn was the man, on the football side, brought in to rework everything. And he has changed a lot. Five years in, the team’s core is made up chiefly of players he acquired—Trey Flowers, Kenny Golladay, T.J. Hockenson, Jarrad Davis, Jeff Okudah, Taylor Decker and Frank Ragnow. And that’s a result of a lot of guys he inherited (Darius Slay, Golden Tate, etc.) being jettisoned over the last couple of years.

"So now, how the team comes back from an 0–2 start really is on Quinn and third-year coach Matt Patricia. This is their team. Let’s see where they take it."

For the entire mailbag, click here.

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