Cardinals QB Kyler Murray has chance to show how he handles adversity
TEMPE, Ariz. — Pre-draft criticism of Kyler Murray often leaned on future-tense theoreticals more than hard-evidence observation.
What if his height holds him back?
Will his running style and speed translate?
Can such a small frame hold up physically if Murray attempts to be a true dual-threat quarterback?
And what happens when the rookie No. 1 pick finally loses a few games in a row and faces a dejected locker room?
The Arizona Cardinals will get a good first bit of evidence toward the last of those questions this Sunday when the Pittsburgh Steelers visit State Farm Stadium. Arizona enters Week 14 on a five-game losing streak and with their rookie No. 1 pick coming off easily the worst performance of his young career.
Now Murray gets to show how he responds to it.
“I can see this week he’s definitely on edge and wants to play better. All of us do,” Arizona head coach Kliff Kingsbury said Wednesday. “I think (he is) just focused, locked in. You can tell he didn’t like the way he played.”
Murray felt off before the kickoff last Sunday in the Cardinals’ 34-7 loss to the Los Angeles Rams, a game in which the rookie completed 19 of 34 passes for 163 yards while also throwing a pick and taking six sacks.
On his way to the game, Murray was five minutes from his house when he realized he forgot his airpods. For a creature of habit, maybe it was a bigger deal than it seemed. Maybe he was just seeing the signs in retrospect.
“It was just that kind of day,” Murray said.
“Losing is losing but last week, that last week … that’s a different type of losing,” he added. “It’s just a disgusting feeling. I’m sure you were disgusted watching it. I was disgusted being in it. It’s not a good feeling.”
Murray’s six sacks, according to Kingsbury, were about Murray not knowing when to throw the ball away.
At other times, Murray got rid of the ball too quickly, a skittishness he admitted was true after taking early hits from the Rams.
In the third quarter of the loss, that showed when Murray threw an inaccurate pass to a fallen-down Christian Kirk, whose out route drew two defenders. Behind them was a wide open Andy Isabella, who would have had a deep touchdown catch if Murray saw him and hung on to the ball just a second longer.
Kingsbury believes Murray will rebound and quickly.
The stoicism is what the Cardinals believed would push Murray through his first experience of long-term adversity when they drafted him.
The No. 1 pick, as an individual, has a chance to show that this week and in the three games after that, regardless of each game’s results.
“I wasn’t necessarily, like, killing myself after the game or anything like that, talking to anybody … I was fine,” Murray said. “I think moreso (it’s about) me just kind of dealing with it myself and understanding and watching the film and what I did wrong and what I can be better at.”
— Asked for the first time since it was reported that Josh Shaw bet on NFL games, including one involving his own Cardinals, Kingsbury said he did not know the next steps for the safety currently on IR (and thus still listed as a member of the team).
“Josh was here in training camp and was injured, and honestly I haven’t had any communication with him since,” Kingsbury said. “I don’t know anything about it honestly. I saw the headline, but I don’t know what he’s done or is accused of. I’ve had zero discussions about him or the league or anything.”
— Kingsbury said linebacker Haason Reddick has been a “consummate pro” being switched from inside to outside as he’s lost playing time to Joe Walker.
“Just wants to get better, help the team in any manner that he can and as coaches we appreciate that,” the head coach added.
— Kingsbury said the team is still working through whether right tackle Jordan Mills, who is an IR return candidate, could be activated this week. “We’ll see how he looks,” Kingsbury said. “He has rehabbed well, and hopefully he looks good this week.”