Kyler Murray’s poor showing against Raiders least of Cardinals’ issues
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.