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Kingsbury sees Cardinals QB Murray’s growth, trusts WR depth

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray, left, talks with head coach Kliff Kingsbury during the second half of an NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019. (AP Photo/John Hefti)

A handful of days worth of team video calls have allowed Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury to reflect on how far second-year quarterback Kyler Murray has come in the past year.

While Murray stepped into a starting role last summer with a grasp of the offense after being drafted No. 1 overall, nothing could prepare him for NFL life.

The speed of the game took time getting used to. Complex defenses and mental time-clock recalibrations took much of the season to work through. The soft-spoken Murray also required time to grow into a leadership role.

To Kingsbury, there was immense development in all those avenues by the end of 2019. On Monday, when the head coach spoke to reporters over a Zoom call, he said that Murray’s comfort in football terms has already shown in remote install work.

“I try to talk to him at least once a week if not more,” Kingsbury said of the franchise quarterback. “He’s doing great. When you watch the installs with him, when you watch plays from last year, you notice how far he’s come since training camp on.

“There’s definitely a different level of confidence, a different level of command of the offense and he feels it. Even though we haven’t been able to get out on the grass, he definitely feels a lot more comfortable heading into year two.”

Why restrict Simmons to ILB?

There’s been some debate, often times over semantics, about how the Cardinals will use No. 8 pick Isaiah Simmons.

General manager Steve Keim said on April 23 Arizona would use him just like Clemson did — that would mean from cornerback to edge defender and in relatively equal allotments.

But the Cardinals listed Simmons as an inside linebacker, and while defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said he’ll play the rookie primarily at that spot, he also added Simmons will move around.

Kingsbury explained a little more about why the team wants Simmons to learn one position and branch out from there.

“Our thought process is if he really is able to focus on one position, having the flexibility to still move around but still focus on one, ‘What does that look like?’ and the sky could really be the limit,” the coach said “We just think the sky could be the limit for what he could be if we lock him in one position for the majority of the time.”

Staying out east for a week

NBC’s Peter King reported that the Cardinals requested that the NFL paired road games to Carolina and New York in back-to-back weeks to limit their travel, and the schedule-makers obliged.

After president and chairman Michael Bidwill said they had discussed such things, it was a stronger sign they plan to stay out east between the Week 4-5 games against the Panthers and Jets, in that order. Kingsbury said Monday all signs point to that plan sticking.

“Obviously a lot of things are up in the air and we don’t know how it will play out,” he said. “I think you get adjusted well. Staying out there changes up the season, brings some freshness to maybe what’s been a grind for a while. I’m open to it and it sounds like they’ve really liked it in the past.”

Skipping on a deep WR draft class

Maybe the board didn’t fall the Cardinals’ way for them to pick up a starting-caliber wide receiver in the 2020 NFL Draft.

They filled positions of greater need throughout their six picks, but notably the team passed over what was considered the deepest class of receivers in recent memories. It said something about how they feel about three second-year WRs who underachieved as rookies in 2019: Andy Isabella, KeeSean Johnson and Hakeem Butler.

“We liked a lot of receivers in the draft. We also like the guys we took last year,” Kingsbury said. “We like how they progressed. It was tough getting on the field ’cause we had some guys playing really well (in front of them), but we’re excited to see how they take that next step in year two. I would say that definitely had a lot to do with how the draft went.”

Whether that’s true or simply a vote of confidence from the head coach, which wideout steps up to play alongside DeAndre Hopkins, Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk remains a big storyline this offseason.


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