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Dan Bickley

Kyler Murray’s poor showing against Raiders least of Cardinals’ issues

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) is helped up by offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert (76) after being sacked for a safety against the Oakland Raiders during the first half of an an NFL football game, Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Most everything about this football game was wrong. The strategy, the execution, the penalties, the offense, the defense, the implications. The Cardinals stunk out loud. Preseason or not, the smell will linger for some time.

This game was like a bad dream. You wake up in a cold sweat, immensely relieved that it doesn’t count. But this level of grotesque can’t be dismissed entirely. It was a night that only Steve Wilks could appreciate. To wit:

Kyler Murray couldn’t even snap the ball correctly. Twice, he incurred false start penalties with his erratic handclapping. It was so farcical that Murray required emergency lessons on the sideline. It wasn’t a good look.

Maybe this was a case of fidgety, hyper-aggressive officiating. Either way, the Cardinals better tweak their ignition system. It’s one thing to put your trust in a rookie head coach and a rookie quarterback. But it’s hard to excite the fan base and mute the critics when you can’t successfully snap the ball at home. And you can’t put your trust in a method that isn’t going to work on the road, in hostile stadiums, anyway.

Murray also missed open receivers. He was flushed from the pocket repeatedly. He looked anything but comfortable, a stark contrast from his NFL debut against the Chargers.

The Cardinals had seven penalties for 59 yards … in the first quarter alone. They faced a 3rd-and-17. They faced a 3rd-and-16. They faced a 3rd-and-23. In the first quarter alone.

They kept running Murray back out there for more, four series in all, hoping he would produce something inspirational, something to carry them through the week. It didn’t work. On his last series, Murray went down in self-preservation, in the end zone, tackling himself for a safety.

It was the smartest thing he could’ve done. Two preseason points mean nothing compared to potential injury. But the imagery was absolutely terrible, effectively unplugging all breathless optimism that preceded this unfortunate competition.

The offense better be hiding the good stuff, like you do when hosting ungrateful relatives. Otherwise, a new general manager might be making the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NFL draft.

That’s because Murray is the least of this team’s problems.

There are questions about the offensive line, which hasn’t seemed to create any space in the running game, between the tackles, the hard way. There is a lurking fear that this team will be hopelessly finessed between the ears, subject to incessant bullying on both sides of the ball.

There are questions about the team’s collection of skill players. There is no veteran third receiver on the team. Hoping to somehow fill the hole from an array of rookies is derelict management, no matter how tantalizing those rookies seemed on draft night.

And there are questions about the defense. The kind that requires motion sickness pills.

Where to start? After switching back to a 3-4 scheme, the Cardinals again show no ability to stop opposing running backs. The first-team Raiders made it look easy, just like the first-string Chargers did the previous week.

The Raiders led 26-0 midway through the second quarter. At the time, both of their quarterbacks — Derek Carr and Mike Glennon — had perfect statistical ratings. Most everyone in attendance was chiding themselves for fighting rush hour traffic for a 5 p.m. start.

You can make a case that the Raiders were extremely motivated. They are currently starring on HBO’s “Hard Knocks,” aware that their preseason is playing out in real time and as a manufactured drama series. Maybe that’s why they were still blitzing safeties in the second quarter of a preseason blowout, a surprising breach of etiquette.

But they’re also the Raiders, a perennial dumpster fire, a four-win team in 2018. This game will certainly heighten the stakes and the suspicions going forward. And aside from Brett Hundley and Trent Sherfield, not many in the Cardinals’ locker room can feel good about the team’s second impression in the Valley.

Good thing it’s only the preseason and the preseason can be highly deceiving.

An entire season depends on it.

Reach Bickley at dbickley@bonneville.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

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Dan Bickley bio
Dan Bickley is the most influential sports media member in Arizona sports history, having spent over 20 years as the award-winning lead sports columnist for The Arizona Republic and AZCentral.com and almost two decades as a Valley sports radio talk show host. In spring 2018, Bickley made the decision to leave the newspaper to join the Arizona Sports team as host of the entertaining and informative midday show Bickley and Marotta, as well as bring his opinionated and provocative column exclusively to ArizonaSports.com.
Bickley’s journalism career began in his hometown of Chicago, where he was part of a star-studded staff at the Chicago Sun-Times. He chronicled Michael Jordan’s six NBA championships; covered the Olympics in eight different countries and attended 14 Super Bowls; spent three weeks in an Indianapolis courthouse writing about Mike Tyson’s rape trial; and once left his laptop in an Edmonton bar after the Blackhawks reached the Stanley Cup Finals.
He has won multiple awards, written two books, formed a rock band, fathered three children, and once turned down an offer to work at the New York Times.  His passions include sports, music, the alphabet, good beer and great radio. After joining Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, he couldn’t be happier