Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images
Background: SEATTLE, WA – DECEMBER 22: Quarterback Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals scrambles out of the pocket as he is chased by defensive back Ugo Amadi #28 of the Seattle Seahawks during game at CenturyLink Field on December 22, 2019 in Seattle, Washington. The Cardinals won 27-13.
Kyler Murray has been spending the off-season in Texas patiently working on his game with his dad and QB guru, Kevin, by lifting, running and throwing to college WRs.
When he’s not putting in the physical training, he is spending a great deal of time breaking down the game films of his rookie season—-with his dog Swoosh by his side.
“I live, breathe and eat football,” Murray said during yesterday’s video conference , “so me, personally, I can’t wait just to get out there with the guys, win games, and ultimately, you know, the goal is to win a Super Bowl and bring a Super Bowl back to Arizona. That’s what I plan to do, and I know the guys plan to do that as well.”
Murray is very excited about the Cardinals’ personnel:
“I feel like we’ve got a pretty tight group,” Murray said. “Guys trust each other, guys know each other, and are very familiar with each other. We’ve got a year in with these coaches, so I feel like really the sky is the limit. We were kind of hitting on all cylinders towards the end of the year, had a lot of close games throughout the season, but I think we really found ourselves.”
When analyzing his rookie game tapes, he concluded that “early in the year I was just winging it”, but over the last half of the season he said that he was able to read the defenses more regularly during the pre-snap and that he gained a strong sense as to how to make sharp decisions.
When asked whether he was pushing Steve Keim to draft his former Oklahoma WR CeeDee Lamb in the 1st round, Murray admitted:
“Yeah, I did. I was. I mean, hell, I play quarterback. Any quarterback, you can never have too many weapons.”
However, Murray was quick to say how amped up he is to have All Pro WR DeAndre Hopkins as his teammate:
“With D-Hop, man, he’s arguably the best receiver in the game and I’m super excited to have him. I think everyone that is a part of the Arizona Cardinals should be. I’ll get to see him soon and we’ll get to work, but I’m super excited to get to play with him just because I know what type of player he is and what type of dog he is and what type of heart he has. I’m super excited.”
Hopkins, along with returning WRs Larry Fitzgerald, Christian Kirk, Andy Isabella, KeeSean Johnson, Trent Sherfield and Hakeem Butler should help Kyler turn the Cardinals’ “drop back passing game” into a team strength this year. That has been one of the second year QB’s top priorities this off-season. In watching the game tapes, studying the coverages and his decisions as a rookie, Kyler said he learned a lot about certain nuances in the drop back passing game that he can use to his advantage this season.
One of the things that stood out to me while analyzing Kyler’s game tapes at Oklahoma was his uncanny ability to take what the defense was giving him and to throw the football with sustained precision. There was one game in particular where the CBs were playing a soft cushion and thus Kyler threw a 5-7 yard out pass in the same passing motion, with the same velocity and pinpoint accuracy three times in a row.
Now, that may not seem like something too special, but to anyone who has played the position and/or has coached it, that combination of repeated fundamentals and precision is actually something to rave about.
Of course, in that same game, once the CBs started inching up to defend the out passes, Kyler then sucked them further in with ball fakes and then beat them over the top.
I also made the note of how quickly Kyler’s eyes sense and spot the open WR.
Therefore, I believe that once Kyler has a stronger command of Kliff Kingsbury’s offense and his ability to discern the coverages during the pre-snap calls, we could see some spectacular stretches of offense, both in terms of Kyler’s patience in taking what the defense gives him, and in terms of his prowess for hitting home run passes whenever the free safety takes a false read or step.
The Cardinals” QB Room:
QB1—-Kyler Murray—-poised and ready to pick up where he and the offense left off last year—-a playermaker extraordinaire who wants to earn it through hard work. This 4 minute video will get you amped!
QB2—-Brett Hundley—-played well in preserving the win in Seattle. While he struggled with consistency as a spot-starter in Green Bay, I believe Kingsbury’s offense is better suited for Brett and that he is in a good position to make his case for being one of the top QB2’s in the NFL.
QB3—-Chris Streveler—-in watching some of his game tapes in the CFL, he’s a tough, gritty competitor who runs and lowers his shoulder with a bang, particularly in the red zone where he has a nose for the goal-line. He has a strong arm, but last year he forced too many passes into tight windows, which on a wider CFL field is a bit of concern. His 2 year CFL stats:
Passing: 242/374, 64.7%, 2,698 yards, 19 TDs, 19 ints.
Rushing: 204 carries for 1,116 yards, 5.7 ave., 22 TDs.
QB4—-Drew Anderson—-has good size, arm strength and decent mobility. In 3 pre-season games last year Anderson threw for 206 yards on 18/32 passing (56.3%), 2 TDs and 1 int. and rushed 3 times for 42 yards (14.0). His return to the team after Kyle Sloter was signed by the Lions gives Anderson a better chance to stick, at least on the PS, this year.
It’s a huge plus that the Cardinals have their QB1 and QB2 back this season in light of the teams being relegated to “virtual” off the field Zoom meetings. Kyler looks primed to have a good year and if Brett’s legal issues (DV allegations) are resolved, then he could also pick up where he left off last season.
Chris Streveler is an asset as a situational RPO RB and perhaps he will be motioned out as a receiver—-plus he can serve as the QB3 (which all teams will need this season—-at least 2 on the roster and 1 on the PS) if necessary, if he can catch on to the offense quickly enough. If the coaches feel that Streveler’s best fit on the roster is as a situational RB, then Drew Anderson could make sense as the QB3 who can be kept on the practice squad.
As most of you know by now, some pundits have projected Colin Kapernick and Cam Newton as good, potential backup QB fits with the Cardinals. Kent Somers wrote an article this week suggesting the Cardinals should at least have Kaep in for a workout. But, as much I am eager to see Kaep play again, and I think that playing in an innovative, wide-open offense like the one he played in at Nevada would help him pick up Kliff Kingsbury’s fairly quickly, bringing in Kaep or Cam Newton at this point feels wrong in terms of timing.
The QB I keep hoping the Cardinals add to the room is Kyle Sloter. I think he’s a superb fit in the K-Raid and it’s a huge bonus that he already knows the offense, having played in the system for the first 11 weeks of the season. I believe he could be the long-term QB2 , as Brett Hundley is on a one year deal again. Plus, Kyle said he learned an impressive amount of knowledge from Matthew Stafford which could help Kyler once again be an asset to the room in terms of pass protection schemes for game preps—-as well as for running the scout team offense.