Kliff Kingsbury, Ron Rivera share anxiety over Kyler vs. WFT D-line

Sep 16, 2020, 12:12 PM | Updated: 12:43 pm

Then-Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera, right, greets Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff King...

Then-Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera, right, greets Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury after an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 22, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. The Panthers won 38-20. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Arizona Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said it was “nerve-wracking” watching film of the Washington Football Team’s defensive front in Week 1.

Washington counterpart Ron Rivera said analyzing the matchup between his D-line and Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray gives him anxiety.

Such stresses happen all the time for NFL head coaches. Yet this week feels more mirror-image-like than usual with Kingsbury and Rivera admitting that the same chess match stresses them out.

“It was pretty nerve-wracking watching their film,” Kingsbury said of Washington’s front on Wednesday. “The eight sacks, causing turnovers, causing fumbles, they were really, really good.

“We just have to have a great week of practice. Like we’ve done playing the 49ers, you’ve got to have a plan playing those edge rushers. Chase Young is going to be one of the best players in the league, you got (Montez) Sweat, you got (Ryan) Kerrigan.”

Washington not only had eight sacks but 15 total quarterback hits on the Philadelphia Eagles’ Carson Wentz in its 27-17 win Sunday. Those sacks were split between seven players, among them this year’s No. 2 overall pick, Young.

“He’s a talented player, he’s a young guy with a lot of juice, energy,” Murray said of the former Ohio State edge rusher. “Specimen. Freak of nature. All those things.”

Young posted 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble, while Jon Bostic added three quarterback hits from his linebacker spot and tackle Matt Ioannidis posted four QB hits. Wentz fumbled twice and threw two picks with the pressure going against him most of the game.

Yet Rivera doesn’t feel great about replicating what his team did against a banged up Eagles offensive line.

Facing Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray does that to a man.

“He’s such an elusive guy, he gives me anxiety,” Rivera told reporters a few hours before Kingsbury said on a conference call with Washington reporters that the opposing football team’s D-line does the same to him.

Murray took contact a few times on 13 rushes and two sacks last week. But he gave himself up on one sack and was pulled down by the shirt on another. Otherwise, the quarterback was kept fairly clean other than taking minimal contact on a questionable late hit flag against the San Francisco 49ers in a 24-20 Arizona victory.

“For him it’s instinctual and it’s been practiced for however many years he’s played football,” Kingsbury said of his 5-foot-10 and 1/8 inch quarterback. “He’s been the smallest guy on the field so he’s learned self-preservation at a level I’ve never seen on a football field.

“His ability to feel things, get down, protect himself, is really unique. But it’s been practiced his entire football career. He takes pride in that.”

Against the 49ers, the Cardinals stretched the field laterally with quick bubble plays and kept a dominant front in check with Murray’s rushing abilities. But quietly, they got 22 rushes and 86 yards of production from running backs Kenyan Drake and Chase Edmonds.

Those 3.9 yards per rushing play, not including Murray’s 91 additional yards on the ground, was a promising sign for an Arizona offensive line that held its own in most facets in Week 1.

“We did a lot of good things on third down, giving him a lot of time in the pocket,” left guard Justin Pugh said Tuesday. “If we don’t let anyone come at him head on, he’s going to make that first guy miss.”

The Cardinals can at least carry that confidence with them into facing Washington this week, though they are quite aware of the challenge.

“They have eight guys that can get after the quarterback and they’re relentless,” Pugh added. “San Fran, very similar style when you look across the board.”

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