Camp K notes: Kyler Murray’s swole, Cards have ‘ideas’ for ILB Simmons
GLENDALE, Ariz. — The comfort level between Kyler Murray and his Arizona Cardinals teammates has grown.
On Thursday, the quarterback was popping into the view of teammate Zach Allen’s Zoom press conference, a little sprinkle to show his growing relationship with everyone in the locker room as the 2019 top pick enters his second season.
“The day I walked into the building, he told me, ‘Congratulations,'” rookie tackle Rashard Lawrence said Wednesday. “He knows all his teammates. Very aware of what’s going on with this organization, the guys they’re bringing in.
“Knowing all the guys, younger guys, coming up to us and introducing himself, that goes a long way as a rookie.”
Murray already won over teammates young and old with his work ethic as a rookie in 2019. That work continued this offseason, where his more open personality, his grasp of NFL defenses and a weight gain have him ticking box after box of reasons why many expect him to expand on an NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Award.
About that weight gain though:
“I didn’t try to go in the weight room to put on weight. I think it’s the maturation of getting older, working out,” Murray said Thursday. “Like I said, it just happened. I didn’t go into the offseason saying I need to put on 10 pounds, 5 — however many pounds I put on. It just comes from working hard. I just pride myself on working hard so that’s just what it is.”
Whatever the motivation, the weight room work has led to a clearly larger quarterback.
It also helps the franchise quarterback build leadership equity.
“We’re always in there hyping him up in the weight room because he knows he got swole, big chest,” receiver Christian Kirk said. “Most quarterbacks aren’t too willing to go in there and bench and do biceps and what not, but he’s all about it. He gets after it in the weight room.”
On paper, defense looking good
Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph no doubt has more to work with compared to last season, if the Cardinals can remain healthy over the next month of training camp.
The defensive line has bulked up, as has the inside linebacker group. Chandler Jones has Devon Kennard pass-rushing from the opposite side, and their ability to flip-flop is enticing for Joseph. Having two starting cornerbacks healthy in Patrick Peterson and Robert Alford is expected to give Arizona the ability to play one-on-one coverage.
All in all, Joseph hopes he can play the scheme he actually wants to, unlike a year ago where it was a patchwork of bodies too inexperienced or physically limited to get creative.
“I’m feeling great. It’s been a good couple days as far as the installs,” Joseph said Thursday.
The big question entering camp, however, is how Arizona will find playing time for first-round pick Isaiah Simmons, who is working with the inside linebackers. Jordan Hicks returns as the leader of the defense, while De’Vondre Campbell brings the size — he’s not so different in stature than Simmons — and smarts that peg him as a starter as well.
Where does Simmons fit in?
“It’s good to have a bunch of good players. Being around (Campbell) the last couple days, man, you can tell he’s a seasoned vet,” Joseph said. “He’s actually helping Jordan Hicks make some of the calls, which helps Jordan to play more free as a MIKE backer. Campbell is a guy who can help us win. Isaiah being a top-10 pick and his natural skillset … you’ve got to find ways to play those guys.
“We have some ideas. I can’t share those. We have some ideas to use our best players in the right positions.”
— In case there was any doubt, the Cardinals remain very excited about second-year safety Jalen Thompson being the starting safety alongside Pro Bowler Budda Baker.
“When he played, we got better,” Joseph said. “He made plays on the ball as a coverage guy, but the best thing he did is tackle. He tackled some of the best backs in this league, one-on-one, open field. That’s tough to do. If a safety has that trait, they can play a long time.
“We gave up a lot of big plays last year in the middle of the defense early on. When that kid played, those plays stopped happening. They went from 40-yard gains to 15-yard gains. So his trait is how fast he plays and how well he tackles. Again, it’s going to be his second year in the system, as far as his IQ moving forward, it’s going to get better. He is definitely the answer for us right now at the safety position.”
— Murray compared his first training camp a year ago to his freshman year in college. Through two days of camp he said, “It’s been a lot easier. The operation of everything offensively has just been a lot smoother.”
— Murray on second-year receiver Andy Isabella and the confidence he has the second-round pick can contribute: “I love Andy personally. When he’s on the field, he’s just dangerous with his speed, his ability to play-make.
“… Our receiving group to me is just so talented and so deep that that competition is going to fuel the fire. Those guys, it’s going to bring the best out of those guys. Just like (Christian Kirk), Andy, I’m excited about him.”