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Cardinals GM Keim hopes QB Murray stays within system vs. Lions

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray, center, runs from Minnesota Vikings defenders Everson Griffen, left, and Jaleel Johnson (94) during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Saturday, Aug. 24, 2019, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)

Arizona Cardinals general manager Steve Keim drafted Kyler Murray because he believes in the quarterback’s playmaking potential.

Never, Keim said after selecting Murray No. 1 overall, had he seen the combination of arm talent and athleticism at the quarterback position.

But as Murray prepares for his NFL regular season debut on Sunday against the Detroit Lions, Keim isn’t asking for the world.

He just wants to see the rookie remain calm and continue running the offense if things go bad.

“I think more than anything for a young quarterback is just to play well within the system, to do the little things correctly, the operation — the ability to find and locate secondary options,” Keim said Friday while joining Doug & Wolf on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

Keim knows there are things Murray couldn’t have prepared for at this point.

Three brief preseason appearances didn’t allow Murray to see the NFL’s diversity of blitzing defenses. The way Arizona ran its bare-bones offense, he didn’t get real game reps adjusting coverages and bailing himself out with game film serving as pre-game preparation.

“There’s no doubt he’s going to get a variance of things (from defenses),” Keim said. “How he handles it — really for a young guy is to make sure you that they understand that you want them to play within the system.

“The guy has, obviously, a rare skillset in terms of playmaking, but at the same time, you don’t want to put your team in a tough position and make critical mistakes with the football. You have to always take care of the ball and make those good decisions.”

Some O-line optimism

It would help Murray a great deal if the offensive line remains healthy.

Four of the Arizona starters are coming off season-ending injuries, and one, right tackle Marcus Gilbert, was listed as limited with a knee injury on the Thursday injury report. Yet Keim remains confident the group will begin 2019 healthy and productive.

“I think those guys are going to play at a high level,” the GM said. “I know they have a chip on their shoulder — a number of those guys are coming off of injuries, particularly A.Q. Shipley and Justin Pugh. And I just feel like (offensive line coach) Sean Kugler has just done an outstanding job with that group, schematically with what they’re asking them to do and some of the things they’ve done in space already has impressed me.

“We just have to make sure we play in unison on Sunday. That’s something that I talked about last year that we did not do.”

As for the offensive line depth, Keim called waiver-wire pickups Justin Murray and Brett Toth “huge upgrades.”

Murray, the general manager said, can play either tackle spot and even guard.

The Cardinals had been high on Toth, also a tackle, since his Senior Bowl appearance two years ago. Keim likes his athletic profile.

Toth just received clearance from the Army to pursue an NFL career in August and played a handful of practices with the Philadelphia Eagles before being waived and claimed by Arizona.

Extra points

— Keim praised the growth from receiver Damiere Byrd, a low-key offseason signee who forced his way onto the roster by melding his speed with improved route-running.

“Damiere Byrd making the team and the strides that he made this offseason, you know, he’s earned it,” Keim said. “He’s done a fantastic job, has grown as a route-runner, shows speed and acceleration to get on top of defensive backs and uncover.”

— Like head coach Kliff Kingsbury, who said Arizona was “thrilled” to sign Cassius Marsh, Keim is excited to see the former Seahawk and 49er outside linebacker into the mix for the Cardinals.

“His ability to get off the ball, his quickness, his speed-to-power, for a long, linear guy, he’s got some bend off the edge,” Keim said. “He also gives us great upside on special teams as a core special-teamer. He plays with a ton of energy and he’s been fun to watch in practice.”

— Keim, on the expectations facing this year’s Cardinals and his confidence in the roster he’s put together: “The bottom line is the character we have in that locker room. We have 53 guys who absolutely love football, come here to work every day and are competitive as hell. All you can ask for and you can control is effort — they’re going to make some mistakes, there’s no doubt about that.

“We’ve tried to put more and more emphasis on character.”

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