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NFL Draft

Arians: Arizona Cardinals Need To Utilize More Pieces Around QB Kyler Murray

  • The Draft Network
  • October 2, 2020
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By Jake Arians

If you just watched the highlights, quarterback Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals came out of the gates hot in 2020. They then hit the breaks in Week 3. 

So, which Kyler Murray can we expect moving forward? 

The game has slowed down significantly for Murray in Year 2. His decision-making is much quicker and has improved overall; I absolutely love the way he is running the ball and when. He doesn’t force the run at all. Murray is doing a great job of taking what opposing defenses give him, and if that requires him to run, he does. Make no mistake, he is a pass-first quarterback, but when he runs, it’s done very efficiently. 

In Week 1 against the San Francisco 49ers, he had 13 carries but only got tackled once. He has some of the most electrifying runs we have ever seen a quarterback make; I love how intelligently he runs the ball paired with the lack of hits he takes. It was on display last year, but this season, the decision to run is made much quicker and safer, which allows him to take fewer sacks and negative plays. Arizona’s coaching staff has done a very nice job of designing and calling run-only plays for Murray as well. He has really excelled on these called runs, one in particular in Week 2 against the Washington Football Team that went for a magnificent touchdown. 

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Murray’s passing statistics have been okay, and I mostly like what I have seen from a progression standpoint from Year 1 to Year 2. Like his runs this season, he has seen the field better and made much quicker decisions when passing. The stats don’t wow you the same, but they have been solid for the most part. Murray is throwing for 786 yards (ranked 15th in the NFL), has a completion percentage of 66.4%, a quarterback rating of 75.5 (10th) with four touchdowns (tied 20th) and five interceptions (31st). But as always the numbers don’t tell the whole story. 

While Murray has been making quicker decisions and seeing the field better, he has also forced the ball into tight windows and to wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Not all of Murray’s five interceptions are alarming, but the trend of how many he has thrown is starting to be. Murray had three interceptions against the Detriot Lions in Week 3 and could have easily had a fourth that was dropped. It will be alarming if this trend does continue by forcing throws.

The more alarming trend, however, is the target share Hopkins has received. There is no debating how good Hopkins is and has been this season, but a target share of almost 50% through three games is beyond alarming. I liked most of what I saw in Week 1 but was caught guard by a 40% target share for Hopkins. It is even higher now through three games. With a player that good, it is easy to want to go that direction on every play. But it is very hard to have sustained success without any complementary pieces. It can also hinder a young quarterback’s progression when he doesn’t have to read the whole field and relies on one player too often—see Houston Texans’ Deshaun Watson. 

Murray may be seeing the field better than his rookie year and making quicker decisions, but there are still some tendencies that need to be addressed. I fully expected after that 2-0 start the Cardinals would start 5-0 before things really got interesting. The loss to the Lions put that in check and really had me wanting to dive deeper into this team. Murray has been better and has been more than electrifying at times, but he still has to be more consistent play to play. With the lack of a run game so far and the gigantic target share of Hopkins, this offense has to figure out who it is and find some secondary pieces for Murray to really thrive. 

But, who will be those secondary pieces be? 

The tight end position isn’t a huge part of this system, and the real issue is at receiver. The Cardinals have three players that thrive in the slot but only the great Larry Fitzgerald will have that primary role. It leaves Christian Kirk and Andy Isabella to play outside, which neither is very natural at. I believe getting running back Kenyan Drake more involved in the rush and pass game would help immensely. Drake could be a secondary option week to week. Arizona can change things up with other pieces, depending on matchups and game plans. If Drake becomes more involved, it will take some of the pressure off of Murray to have to do too much. 

It seems like Murray feels it is all on him at times. In turn, he forces too many plays that aren’t there. One thing is for sure, the Cardinals have to run the ball better and Murray has to throw to someone other than only Hopkins to have the success they crave. I expect Murray and Arizona to bounce back big this week against the Carolina Panthers. But in order to be a playoff team from the tough NFC West, the Cardinals have more questions than answers so far. 

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