Arizona Cardinals quick hits: QB Kyler Murray ‘put on some mass’
Monday and Tuesday marked actual on-field time for the Arizona Cardinals.
Like, football players on grass.
The Cardinals only conducted initial walk-throughs, but it was enough for head coach Kliff Kingsbury to get a sense of where his team stands after an extended virtual offseason.
“The ball’s involved,” Kingsbury said on a Tuesday Zoom call. “Walk-through type tempo. After doing so much Zoom and virtual meetings over seven months, (it was important) just to get out there and you can only do so much before guys are nodding saying, ‘Yeah I got it,’ and you get out there and you really find out if they got it.
“It’s been great for us as coaches to actually place guys on the field, execute some things and start moving in the right direction.”
Here’s what else we learned Tuesday as the Cardinals continued easing into full-blown camp.
Kyler Murray bulked up
The few teaser images thrown on the Twittersphere by the Cardinals made quarterback Kyler Murray look a little bit thicker.
Kingsbury confirmed the 5-foot-10 and 1/8-inch signal-caller focused on adding bulk.
“He’s obviously put on some mass, you can tell,” Kingsbury said. “He’s bigger, thicker. I think he understood it’s a long season, you’re going to take a bit of a pounding. He wanted to bulk up in that area.”
Murray is still listed at 207 pounds on the Cardinals website, the same as his mass at the NFL Draft Combine.
Maxx Williams on ice?
Kingsbury spoke to reporters Tuesday before it was known that offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert was opting out of the season. The head coach addressed Gilbert and tight end Maxx Williams being placed on the non-football injury list Sunday and suggested the transactions were not serious.
“With Marcus and Maxx, basically it became an extended physical, just some procedural stuff there,” the head coach said. “Shouldn’t be much longer.”
It turns out Gilbert is at high risk if he got sick with coronavirus and will sit the 2020 season. Williams’ status isn’t clear.
As for the tight end position, one that defined the play-caller’s evolution last year, Kingsbury said the team likes the room: Williams, Dan Arnold, Darrell Daniels and newcomer Dylan Cantrell, the last of whom is a converted receiver.
“Maxx has been Steady Eddy for us, can do it all,” Kingsbury said. “We loved what we saw from him last year and bringing leadership and juice to the field.
“He’s been a great mentor for some of those younger players like Dan, Darrell, Dylan Cantrell. We like the room. I think there’s huge upside there. Dan is a guy who is ascending as a player we feel like, has a great skillset, has a great guy to learn from in Maxx in that room. And Darrell’s the same way. Both athletic guys who can really run, stretch the field and are young players who have big upside along with Dylan Cantrell.”
Return roles up for grabs
Receivers Pharoh Cooper and Damiere Byrd left Arizona in free agency, leaving the kick and punt return duties up in the air.
Christian Kirk could potentially take the punt return duties, and speedster Andy Isabella took reps at kick return man last season.
Kingsbury said the team’s young running backs could have a shot at winning those spots, however. The coach mentioned backup running back Chase Edmonds and second-year receiver Johnnie Dixon as potential candidates for the roles.
Expecting big things from Kirk
Kingsbury didn’t hold back on setting high expectations when asked about receiver Kirk.
In his second season as a pro, Kirk posted 709 receiving yards and three scores last year despite missing three games and then playing through a serious ankle injury.
“With Christian, I expect him to take the next step as a player,” Kingsbury said. “I see the production and I see the potential to go through the roof. I mentioned it last year before he got hurt: I thought he was going to have a really, really big year and unfortunately had the ankle slow him down.
“He just looks like a different guy. Having a guy like DeAndre (Hopkins) around him day in, day out is going to make him that much better of a player and that much better of a weapon for us.”