Cardinals pre-camp preview: Kyler Murray and the rest of the QB room
The Arizona Cardinals report to duty on Wednesday and open 2019 training camp with their first practice the following day. To preview the storylines heading into head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s first year on the job, let’s take a look at the roster by position groups.
Finally, we’re here — the quarterbacks. No. 1 pick Kyler Murray is the new face of the franchise just a year after Josh Rosen entered with the same destiny. Only this time, there’s no waiting around. The rookie is the expected starter with a head coach seemingly hand-picked to help him succeed.
Brett Hundley, Charles Kanoff, Drew Anderson
Kliff Kingsbury could have invoked the “Why do you think I came all this way?” meme from “Game of Thrones” after the Cardinals finally proved the rumors correct and drafted Kyler Murray with the first pick in the 2019 draft.
Here’s to guessing that Kingsbury doesn’t have time to keep up with hit TV series and thus couldn’t make such a reference.
In any case, Arizona general manager Steve Keim brought Kingsbury to the NFL in unorthodox fashion because the team so desperately needed a quarterback guru. While departed quarterback Josh Rosen would have benefited, there’s no doubt Kingsbury’s familiarity with Murray gives the Cardinals more reason to believe this wily yet risky scheme just might work.
The narrative around Murray is far from what surrounded Rosen a year ago. While Rosen’s thoughtfulness dominated the conversation, even as he came in expected to back up veteran Sam Bradford, it’s Murray’s ready-to-go familiarity with the spread offense that has him tabbed as a starter.
“The first thing that pops out to you is just how intelligent he is,” receiver Larry Fitzgerald said of the No. 1 overall pick. “I mean, he knows the system better than we do. He can get us into any play at any time and then he has the ultimate weapon in the exit button. If things break down, he can get going pretty quickly.”
At Oklahoma last year, Murray put up 4,361 yards, completing 69% of his passes for 42 touchdowns and seven interceptions. The Heisman Award winner rushed for 1,001 yards and 12 more touchdowns.
Murray has the arm strength and the baseball background to fit the mobile, play-making abilities that liken him to former Kingsbury product Patrick Mahomes, who is now with the Kansas City Chiefs. He also has a unique release that plays into an offense where the ball is expected to get out of his hands quickly a good percentage of the time.
That and his straight speed make him a favorable choice to play behind an offensive line with so much to prove.
Murray will have his lumps, for sure. Even Kingsbury will be on a learning curve, picking up on more complex defensive schemes in the NFL.
Together, they hope to weather the early storms enough to come out the other side of arguably the NFL’s most intriguing offseason.
“I feel we can be very dangerous,” Murray said of his new coach, who recruited him out of high school in Texas. “He’s one of the best in the world at calling plays. I can’t wait to get up there with him. It’s been a long time coming and I hope he feels the same.”
Excuse Brett Hundley for expecting to challenge for the starting quarterback role. What else is he supposed to do?
Signed when Arizona still had Josh Rosen on the roster, the Chandler High School product brings experience and another more athletic option to Arizona’s offense. And knowing that the Cardinals could have protection issues with Murray starting, there’s a good chance Hundley is called upon this year as the team does its best to protect its prized draft pick.
“I knew with Kingsbury coming, this would be a good fit for me,” Hundley said while joining 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station’s Bickley & Marotta this offseason. “It was a perfect opportunity and it was one I wasn’t going to pass up.”
Hundley has learned from Aaron Rodgers on the Green Bay Packers (2015-17) and Russell Wilson with the Seattle Seahawks (2018).
He has 15 games of experience since entering the league out of UCLA as a fifth-round draft pick, completing 60% of his passes for 1,853 yards, nine touchdowns and 13 picks.
By the way: Hundley also rushed 36 times for 270 yards in 2017 with Green Bay for a 7.5 average, a sign he could bring a similar threat to Murray if the rookie were to go down.
Under the radar
— It’s unlikely Arizona would go into the regular season carrying more than two quarterbacks, but which of second-year pro Charles Kanoff and undrafted rookie Drew Anderson make the practice squad is a question that only training camp can answer.
He said it
“Just approaching the NFL Draft, I wanted to be organic,” Keim said hours after drafting Murray. “The way I looked at it was — I don’t want to lie to you, I was reluctant. I did not want to watch the tape, I didn’t want to fall in love with the player.
“I’ve been doing this over 20 years. I’ve seen guys who have thrown it like him. I’ve seen guys who have run it like him. But I can tell you that I haven’t seen anybody that can do the combination that he brings to the table: the ability to throw the football with timing, accuracy and touch, and to be able to run the football, extend plays and create outside of the pocket.”