DAN BICKLEY

Possibilities endless with Cardinals unlocking Kyler Murray’s potential

Sep 20, 2020, 6:00 PM | Updated: Sep 21, 2020, 5:17 pm
Quarterback Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals runs with the football en route to scoring a 1...
Quarterback Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals runs with the football en route to scoring a 14 yard rushing touchdown against the Washington Football Team during the first half of the NFL game at State Farm Stadium on September 20, 2020 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The future has arrived. Everyone in the NFL knows it. Kyler Murray is now a lethal weapon.

In control. In contention. Indefensible.

It’s a shame that no spectators were allowed inside State Farm Stadium on Sunday, where a 30-15 victory over Washington’s football team would’ve felt like a milepost victory. The start of something big.

The kind of game where you keep your ticket stub. If ticket stubs were still an actual thing.

“He’s a spectacular talent,” Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “We all know that.”

Murray’s ascension is one of the biggest stories in football. He’s an undersized underdog who could redefine the position, just like Steph Curry and Steve Nash did in the NBA. He’s a threat to score a touchdown every time he runs the ball, just like Reggie Bush at USC. You will hear NFL types raving about him in the days ahead.

Murray is also taking the baton from Lamar Jackson, who took it from Patrick Mahomes. It is way early but abundantly clear that Murray is an MVP candidate right here, right now. And that makes the Cardinals extremely dangerous.

“Kyler’s definitely a special guy with the ball in his hands,” wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins said.

The Cardinals didn’t play a great game on Sunday. Neither did Murray. That’s what makes the 30-point output so impressive. Kingsbury’s play-calling got sidetracked on a few occasions, including an incredibly risky fourth-down conversion deep in his own territory, when the head coach dialed up a trick play featuring the backup quarterback.

It worked. But it wasn’t smart.

The offensive line struggled. The defense lost its juice in the second half. There have been way too many penalties over the first two weeks of the season. Hopkins actually dropped a pass, and that almost never happens.

But Murray once again tilted the playing field with his legs.  He made a 20-point halftime lead look easy.  The difference in his mentality is obvious.

Murray was heretofore a scrambler, not a runner.  When running as a rookie, it was generally to save his own life. He wasn’t sure how his speed and quickness translated to the NFL, and his lack of comfort was frequently on display.

Not anymore. Now, he’s looking to turn the ball upfield. And once he gets to the second level of a defense his disposition changes dramatically. He’s starting to look more for the end zone and less for a soft landing.

“I feel more comfortable out there, obviously,” Murray said.

Murray also posted two big aerial strikes on Sunday, another promising sign. He found Andy Isabella for a big gain. He stretched the field vertically, and it didn’t always work. But at least they were throwing the ball downfield, in pursuit of chunk plays. It was a refreshing change from all the dinking and dunking.

“A work-in-progress,” Kingsbury said of his offense. “I think you can see we weren’t as sharp as we would like to be. But (Murray) has so much talent that he can still make some incredible plays.”

Here’s the good news:  NFL teams that start 2-0 generally make the playoffs, especially in a year with an extra postseason berth available. The Cardinals have three very winnable games before their showdown with the Cowboys on Monday Night Football, the night America will truly get to know Kyler Murray.

And best of all:

“I feel like we’re not really scratching the surface yet,” Murray said.

For now, it’s all good. Murray has won four of his last five NFL starts. The Cardinals are 2-0 for the first time since 2015, when they reached the NFC Championship Game. And it’s been a long time since they made winning a football game seem this easy.

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