The ups, downs and exciting potential of Kyler Murray
The Arizona Cardinals offense will be one of the most exciting units to watch in the upcoming 2021 season.
James Conner, AJ Green and Rondale Moore were added to Kyler Murray’s arsenal of weapons which already included DeAndre Hopkins, Chase Edmonds and Christian Kirk. Protection has been improved with the addition of All-Pro center Rodney Hudson. Depth improved with veteran Brian Winters and seventh-round pick Michael Menet.
If Kyler Murray can continue to progress like he did last season from his rookie year in 2019, the Cardinals will undoubtedly be a playoff team. But until the start of the regular season, you really don’t know what to expect from them.
Will Kyler Murray continue to make progress in his game to help this Cardinals team secure a playoff berth or win NFC West?
He certainly has the capacity to do it and I think he can. His 7,693 passing yards, 1,363 rushing yards and 61 total touchdowns during his NFL career have been more than phenomenal so far.
As we all know, this is not a one-man show. Everyone in this organization, from the players to the coaching staff, will need to be at their A game if the Cardinals are to reach their goals this year.
Ultimately, the quarterback is the one who leads and uplifts their football team. Expectations are very high for the Oklahoma product and they have been since he entered the league.
Let’s take a look at the Cardinals franchise quarterback. There have been so many good and bad, but a lot to be excited about in Year 3 with Kyler Murray.
Kyler Murray is a fantastic deepball passer but has had a few bumps along the way
Week 6 (@ Dallas): Kyler Murray deep right to Christian Kirk for an 80 yard touchdown at 4:53 in the 2nd quarter
Kyler Murray is not only an athletic force by nature, but he is also a very solid passer. If a play is designed for the through pass, Murray will uncork it and let the ball fly. And as we’ve seen throughout the 2020 season, he loves to throw it to the back of the field.
On this play in the second quarter, Murray fakes the transfer to Kenyan Drake (# 41) and hits a wide-open Christian Kirk (# 13) in stride on a go route for an 80-yard touchdown after a double move over Daryl Worley (# 28). He found the receiver open quickly and got the ball out of his hands as soon as possible.
If you want to see more of his 2020 passes, check out this:
While Kyler Murray thrived on throwing in the direction of Christian Kirk and DeAndre Hopkins (over 100 couriers when targeted), the same can’t be said for Andy Isabella. Murray’s chemistry with the UMass product weren’t perfect last year. The proof is in the video below. A combination of miscommunication and inaccuracies couldn’t make that connection last season with a 63.8 passer rating when targeted.
Deep attempts (based on next gen stats): 23 of 58, 874 yards, 8: 0 TD / INT ratio, 126.8 passer rating.
Sometimes he just didn’t have enough time …
Week 16 (vs. 49ers): Kyler Murray sacked by Kerry Hyder with 8:24 in the 2nd quarter
There were so many games in the NFL last season that couldn’t be made by the Cardinals offense due to the pressures allowed by the offensive line. Kelvin Beachum (# 68) has been solid throughout the 2020 season but here he was beaten by Kerry Hyder (# 92) of the 49ers.
It was an empty backfield formation with Kenyan Drake (# 41) lined up on the right side of the pitch before the snap. On this game, Christian Kirk (# 13) was wide open on what looked like a go route. I don’t know what Ahkello Witherspoon (# 23) was doing on this game leaving him open like that even though he was waiting for help with security. It could have been a 75-yard touchdown, but instead Murray ended up being sacked for a loss of two. However, there are some things that I love about this piece. On the one hand, Kirk opened up. Second, Murray stepped up in the pocket and was seconds to throw him down the field.
Protection of the offensive line last season was very respectable but can still be improved. If Kyler Murray were better protected, there is no doubt that games like this and many others would have been completed.
There were “What are you doing?” moments with K1
Week 15 (vs Eagles): Kyler Murray pass to midfield intended for Marcus Epps’ interception of Christian Kirk in the end zone with 4:53 left in the 3rd quarter
No NFL quarterback is perfect. Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and every great quarterback in NFL history have made mistakes on the football field in their respective careers. And that’s part of the growing pains in the NFL.
Here in shotgun formation on a 2nd and goal situation, Christian Kirk (# 13) is running in what appears to be a post lane. One problem I see with Kyler Murray here and in some cases throughout the season is that he’s looking towards his goal. Not only was Kirk not open on this game, but DeAndre Hopkins (# 10) was open for a split second or two on this driving / drag route if Kyler was just looking his way.
In Murray’s defense, the pocket collapsed and it actually looked like he was trying to get the ball out of his hands. however, browse your progressions when he has time in his pocket, he has to keep improving. But he’s getting better. Murray’s second season was much better than his rookie year in 2019.
Talking about that….
Murray must continue to make progress in reading defenses and go through with his progressions
Week 3 (vs Lions): Kyler Murray pass intended for Larry Fitzgerald intercepted by Jamie Collins
In this game here I already see two wide receivers that are open. At the top of the screen, DeAndre Hopkins performs an exit. At the bottom, we see Keesean Johnson (# 19) open on a loop. Although Murray had time, he forced the ball to Larry Fitzgerald (# 11) into the lunge which was covered by linebacker Jamie Collins (# 58) and cornerback Darryl Roberts (# 29).
Sometimes it’s better to finish easy rather than trying to make a big play with a specific target in mind in tight cover. That Lions game was one of Murray’s worst performances in the NFL as he threw three picks at a team that didn’t force turnovers up to this point that season.
Take readings, identify covers, and track progress. Improve here and pay attention.
Kyler Murray knows how to cheat a defense and make it pay off with his turbo speed
Week 9 (vs. dolphins): Kyler Murray left end for a 12-yard touchdown run with 2:33 remaining in the 3rd quarter
Kyler Murray, without a doubt, is one of the fastest quarterbacks in the NFL. It’s one thing to just be athletic, but it’s also another to use that athletic ability to its full potential. And it’s full screen here.
This is a racing game designed for the quarterback in a formation with the play option (shotgun). Murray waves to Christian Kirk (# 13) on the left, fakes the transfer to Chase Edmonds (# 29) and executes him for the score. First of all, Emmanuel Ogbah (# 91) was completely fooled here by going to attack Edmonds. This paved the way for Kirk’s block over Jerome Baker (# 55) and Maxx Williams (# 87) with the cut block on Bobby McCain (# 28) near the end zone.
Ogbah and Baker fell into the Cardinals’ trap thinking Edmonds had the ball. You have to sell the defense as the running back gets the ball and Murray did just that. Murray’s patience and composure were essential.
Murray finds a way to make the guys miss even if the defense isn’t rigged
Week 9 (vs. Dolphins): Kyler Murray center for 28 yards with 5:22 left in the 3rd quarter
Sometimes the read option won’t fake everyone. Dolphins linebacker Kyle Van Noy (# 53) knew exactly what was going to happen and had his eyes on Kyler Murray the entire time. But knowing which game is called does not necessarily mean that it will be stopped.
Van Noy tried to tackle him, but Kyler Murray dropped him and started running for a massive 28-yard gain. Murray knows how to screw guys up and is one of the toughest players to go up against for a reason. It is slippery, fast and agile. Few quarterbacks in the NFL can do what it does.
Murray’s unique abilities are what make the Cardinals offense so fun to watch.
And he also knows how to protect himself by playing big games
Week 4 (@ Panthers): Kyler Murray scrambles the left end for 48 yards with 5:26 left in the 3rd quarter
Being a quarterback also means knowing your limits. Not just how far you can throw a ball or how long you can extend a play, but knowing when to throw the ball, go out of bounds, or slide to avoid an unnecessary shot.
In that highlight, offensive guard JR Sweezy (# 64) is beaten by Zach Kerr (# 92) on the inside, forcing Kyler Murray to come out of the pocket and run full speed down the field for a win of 48. yards. What I like here is not only the big payout but Murray slips late in the game to avoid getting hit. He understood that he was slowing down and that the defenders were right behind him ready to tackle. Murray assessed his surroundings and made the smart decision to protect himself with the slide.
Throughout the 2020 season, Murray has done a very good job protecting himself. He slipped a lot, threw the ball (although he did a better job in 2019 in my opinion) and did everything he could to stay healthy.
Kyler Murray’s future looks very bright in the wilderness. He’s a very good deep-ball passer with respectable pocket awareness and can do a lot of damage with his speed. All eyes will be on him for the necessary reading and continuing his progress to truly take off as a quarterback in this organization’s franchise.
The mandatory Cardinals minicamp will take place June 8-10, so more content to come. If I call anything, 2021 will be his best season yet.