Carson Palmer: Opponents challenge Cardinals QB Kyler Murray in pocket

Sep 23, 2021, 8:23 AM | Updated: 8:26 am
Quarterback Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals scrambles with the football against the Kansas...
Quarterback Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals scrambles with the football against the Kansas City Chiefs during the first half of the NFL preseason game at State Farm Stadium on August 20, 2021 in Glendale, Arizona. The Chiefs defeated the Cardinals 17-10. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Former Cardinals QB Carson Palmer believes he’s seen one solution — at least in theory — to stop current Arizona signal caller Kyler Murray.

It comes with an asterisk: Palmer believes Murray is well on his way to figuring it out and said the quarterback is already the “the most exciting and most fun to watch player in the NFL.”

What’s Palmer’s big idea?

“The way to do it is to not go for sacks. You have to keep Kyler in the pocket,” Palmer told Arizona Sports’ Wolf & Luke on Wednesday. “Once he starts running around and doing 360s, nobody is quick enough, nobody is fast enough to get him on the ground.

“When we went to New England (last year), they played them really, really well. They kept Kyler in the pocket, they caused a lot of confusion,” Palmer added. “If you really go back and study the film, the next three of four weeks after that New England game, everybody was copying that … The way to do it is to not go for sacks. You just got to keep Kyler in the pocket.”

Palmer is referencing a 20-17 loss in Foxborough, Mass., where Murray was 23-of-34 for 170 yards and an interception. That game started a 2-4 stretch to finish the season for Arizona, one in which it was assumed Murray was at least dinged up.

While Murray posted six games with a QBR above 60 in the first 11 games of the year, he posted none above 54 in those final six games.

Have similar opponent gameplans against Arizona carried over into this season? If teams are again attempting to keep Murray working in a pocket, it’s not turning out so well through two games this year.

Murray was named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week on Wednesday following a performance against the Minnesota Vikings in which he passed for 400 yards and three touchdowns, then added a rushing score.

Through two games, Murray has completed 74% of his passes for 689 yards, the latter of which is second-most in the NFL. He’s also rushed more selectively, taking five carries in each game and recording two touchdowns on 10 overall runs.

For a defense, keeping Murray contained with controlled pass-rushing isn’t as easily done as said.

“Logistically, when you look at it, when you’re a defensive coordinator and a head coach and you’re telling your defensive linemen, ‘Nobody get sacks this week, nobody get TFLs, keep him in the pocket,’ there’s too much money on the line,” Palmer told Wolf & Luke. “You don’t get that next contract by keeping the quarterback in the pocket. You get that next contract by getting that quarterback on the ground.”

Murray’s maturation will likely challenge and change opposing gameplans. His rollout to find Rondale Moore for a 77-yard score in which he kept a play alive behind the line of scrimmage was a game-changer against Minnesota this past Sunday.

Relatedly, the glimpses of improvements in 2021 are not about Murray alone.

An improved receiver group that by production is led by the rookie Moore has mattered.

Palmer also mentioned how new center Rodney Hudson has positively affected Murray in the quarterback’s third NFL season.

“At the end of the day, Kyler is still young. He is not in year eight, nine, 10,” Palmer said. “There’s still some things he doesn’t know. Having a smart vet that has been there done that, seen a bunch of different looks, been in the trenches and understands how to work with the guys around him … Having a guy like Rodney Hudson is huge.

“He can call off whatever that protection or adjustment is and put them in the right situation.”

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