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Arizona Cardinals offense far from a finished product in preseason

David Johnson #31 of the Arizona Cardinals runs with the ball during an NFL preseason game against the Oakland Raiders at State Farm Stadium on August 15, 2019 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

GLENDALE, Ariz. – It’s just a preseason game. Don’t overreact.

That was the message last week, and it will be a familiar refrain this week too. Thing is, it has a much different meaning this time around. And it might be a little tougher now.

A week ago, we were trying to pump the brakes on the Kyler Murray hype after an impressive opening drive against the Chargers. This week we might just want to forget the game against the Raiders even happened.

At least as far as the Arizona Cardinals starters are concerned. Murray stayed on the field for four full drives, and the offense looked pretty discombobulated on all four. Oakland defenders were everywhere, guys weren’t getting open and Murray even missed on a throw or two – something that seemed unspeakable seven days ago.

Worst of all, nobody seemed to be on the same page. At all.

“Everybody felt ugly on the sideline after the first four drives, or whatever it was,” Murray acknowledged. “But that’s just part of it. It’s good for us to see that, it’s good for us to feel that. Obviously, we’re very vanilla right now so it’s hard to judge. But I think when we get out there we’ll be ready to roll.”

Murray left the game with three completions on eight attempts for 12 yards. When he exited, Arizona had already amassed 10 penalties for 79 yards. Not exactly a productive team effort.

Again, though, we’re talking about four drives here. In the second preseason game. For a team that is breaking in a rookie quarterback, a rookie head coach, three rookie receivers and a new offense. So the idea that people should be careful to overreact isn’t just a way to deflect attention or minimize the red flags. It’s a valid stance.

Still, there’s no denying we saw an ugly effort at State Farm Stadium on Thursday night. And it’s fair to be concerned. The offense doesn’t look right, at least not yet. And with Kliff Kingsbury saying he expects cornerback Robert Alford to be sidelined for “an extended amount of time”, the defense has another hole to fill. So the offense may have to carry the load when Week 1 rolls around.

“It obviously wasn’t as polished as we would’ve liked it to be,” Murray pointed out. “But it’s a learning experience.”

Now the question is: what exactly did they learn? It’s easy to watch the film and say Murray wasn’t really to blame for many of the problems, that the offense around him just wasn’t in sync. But this is the personnel the Cards have. That’s not going to change much before the regular season. So even if it’s not his fault, Murray will have to find ways to be better if he plans on getting this group to thrive.

“What he did,” Kingsbury said, when asked what Murray could take from an outing like this. “Continue to protect the football and keep making decisions and play your way out of that. That’s what’s tough about preseason is you’re trying to keep it vanilla and then he doesn’t have a chance to keep going and get himself in a rhythm. But that’s part of it, and we understand that. I thought he performed well under the circumstances, and made the right decisions with the football.”

Murray did protect the football, which wasn’t easy with the pressure he was getting. And he did manage to flash some of that trademark speed, though it seemed like more of a survival instinct than an offensive plan of attack when he did it.

For his part, though, he wasn’t too fazed in the aftermath.

“Looking at the big picture, this isn’t a big deal,” Murray explained. “Obviously you want to go out and look good. They did some things we obviously weren’t game-planning for, but we’ll go back and treat this one like a game week. Try to be better next week.”

At times, it seems like the rookie quarterback might already be bored by the preseason. Not that he isn’t trying, just that he wants to play a full game where the result counts and he gets to run the Cardinals’ actual offense.

“I don’t want to say it’s not real, but it’s just, you know, it’s not the regular season,” Murray admitted. “We’re not doing everything that we’re going to do. So that’s why it’s kind of… it gets frustrating. But at the same time you know it’s preseason.”

In other words, don’t overreact.

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