GM: Cardinals O-line probably played better vs. Lions than any 2018 game

Sep 13, 2019, 7:44 AM | Updated: 4:33 pm

Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury talks with his players during the second half of an NF...

Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury talks with his players during the second half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Darryl Webb)

(AP Photo/Darryl Webb)

Despite heading into Week 1 without one of its key starters, the Arizona Cardinals offensive line pushed back against the perception.

A group of players with past individual success but also recent injury histories played well in Week 1 against the Detroit Lions without right tackle Marcus Gilbert, whose knee injury ended his season before it began.

The Arizona linemen gave the Cardinals a chance to mount an 18-point rally in the fourth quarter Sunday for an eventual 27-all tie — an early J.R. Sweezy collision with quarterback Kyler Murray aside.

“I thought we played probably better than any game last year,” Arizona general manager Steve Keim told Doug & Wolf Friday on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station. “The additions we made with Sweezy and getting (center A.Q. Shipley) back healthy — I thought Justin Pugh played extremely well.

“D.J. Humphries played one of his better games, and then Justin Murray, for a guy who’d only been there four or five days and to be told ‘you’re going to start’ on a Friday before a game, I thought he played about as well as he could play. And I think he’s got a chance.”

Justin Murray will be Gilbert’s replacement once again in Week 2 against the Baltimore Ravens this Sunday, Arizona head coach Kliff Kingsbury said Monday. The lineman had only two games of NFL experience and no starts before the Cardinals claimed him off waivers a week before the first regular season game.

Kingsbury reiterated this week that Justin Murray performed well in less-than-ideal circumstances.

While the head coach wouldn’t say the starting job is his for good — Arizona signed the more experienced Jordan Mills this week for depth — it appears that the 26-year-old Justin Murray will have his opportunities to play.

“That was pretty dope,” Humphries said of Arizona’s new starting right tackle. “We didn’t know ’til after the game that was his first start. You think you know a guy.

“I was like, ‘Bruh, you seem like a cool dude, bruh, I just don’t know you yet … We going to learn you on the fly.'”

Keim on the positives of a tie

While Keim said the second tie of his executive career came with mixed emotions, there were positives to draw from the Detroit game.

He was impressed with defensive coordinator Vance Joseph’s plan of attack against the Lions. All of Arizona’s special teams units performed well.

Trent Sherfield recovered a muffed punt, and Dennis Gardeck blocked a punt. Both led to Arizona points.

Keim also liked what he saw from his rookie head coach, who after the game admitted to over-thinking the early gameplan. Kingsbury’s mid-game adjustments stood out.

“That really resembles his personality,” Keim said. “He’s a guy that at the end of the day is very confident in what he’s doing. Yet at the same time, he’s got a humility to him that he can grow and get better, and he truly respects the game and respects his players.

“When our players hear that, they see that, all it can do is make them want to fight for him more.”

As for rookie quarterback Kyler Murray, Keim of course wouldn’t mind seeing a faster start and fewer critical errors. But he did give the No. 1 pick credit for leading the comeback before finishing Week 1 hitting on 29 of 54 passes for 308 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.

“The guy is extremely resilient,” Keim said. “In some ways, I think it’s sort of how he played (at Oklahoma) against Alabama last year. He struggled mightily in the first half but he came alive in the second half. Talking to the Alabama players at the combine and through the interview process, those guys were extremely impressed with the way Kyler played in the second half against Alabama, where they couldn’t stop him.

“We have to be better in the red zone and execute the little things, but again, it was great to see for a rookie quarterback to go out and flip the switch. It showed a lot of mental toughness.”

Presented By
Western Governors University

Presented By
Western Governors University

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GM: Cardinals O-line probably played better vs. Lions than any 2018 game