Roundtable: What can the Cardinals do to bring out Kyler Murray’s best?

Jul 22, 2022, 11:55 AM
Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals calls a play during a game against the Detroit Lions at Fo...
Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals calls a play during a game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on December 19, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)
(Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)

Kyler Murray has his massive contract extension.

The Arizona Cardinals have tethered themselves to the quarterback as the franchise face. With contracts also signed this offseason by head coach Kliff Kingsbury and general manager Steve Keim, Arizona has laid out a plan for continuity for most of this decade.

But those three leaders must work together to make Murray’s extension pay off — it’s a $230.5 million deal through 2028 with $160 million of that reportedly guaranteed.

Murray must take the next steps to progress as a signal caller. But Kingsbury, Keim and the players around the QB will also have roles in making the monster contract all worth it.

We asked our Arizona Sports program hosts and editors what they think is the most important piece to help Murray reach his potential.

Now that Kyler Murray is locked into a long-term contract, what one thing is most important for the Cardinals to do around him in the coming years to bring out his best?

Vince Marotta, co-host of Bickley & Marotta: It’s easy to talk about the personnel support Kyler needs moving forward, and yes, that is a concern, especially up front. Of their offensive line veterans, only Rodney Hudson and Josh Jones are under contract for 2023. With the Cardinals seemingly always struggling to build an offensive line through the draft or free agency, this should be a huge concern.

Murray’s future success directly leans on coaching. Kliff Kingsbury also has security after receiving a contract extension earlier in this offseason, so it’s time for a plan to be devised that allows Murray and the rest of the offense to thrive even when key pieces of the attack are marginalized or sidelined by injuries, which is almost inevitable in the second half of seasons.

If the plan from day one was to have Kingsbury and Murray grow together in their coach-player relationship (and we all believe it was), all contractual hurdles are now cleared for that to happen. It’s time.

Dave Burns, co-host of Burns & Gambo: From a personnel standpoint, the offensive line always requires attention. Even in the best of times. The Hudson situation highlighted the fragility of the unit; you could hear the sigh of relief from Page to Nogales when it was announced that he’ll be back.

The draft has been a woefully underutilized means of replenishing talent and needs to be more of a source of future talent. You could argue that every pick they make in 2023 should be on an offensive lineman.

Luke Lapinski, co-host of Wolf & Luke: Honestly, they’ve put him in a pretty good position to succeed now. He has plenty of weapons on offense — especially when DeAndre Hopkins returns — and a decent O-line now that Hudson’s back. And they went out and traded for a really good deep threat who just happens to be one of Kyler’s best friends when they got Hollywood Brown, so he should feel pretty comfortable with what’s around him. There are plenty of quarterbacks in this league that don’t have that offensive lineup to work with.

The biggest things they can surround him with at this point are leadership and consistency. Guys like Budda Baker, J.J. Watt and Zach Ertz will hopefully help Kyler take another step as a leader. I don’t think he’s a bad leader now, but he’s only played three seasons. He can still grow. And it’s on him to make the most of having teammates like that. Consistency’s obviously vital now, too. Kyler hasn’t exactly had a strong finish to the last two seasons, but neither has the team around him. He needs to play at the same level in December that he’s been playing at in September, and having the guys around him do that too can only help.

Tyler Drake, editor and co-host of the Cardinals Corner podcast: Kingsbury must find ways to keep the offense fresh. Too many times last season we saw the Cardinals get stuck in a rut with questionable play-calling and an overreliance on WR DeAndre Hopkins. Kingsbury, GM Steve Keim and owner Michael Bidwill all turned to Hopkins’ injury as the downfall of the offense in the second half of the season.

Losing a player of his caliber hurts, but he’s not the only pass catcher on the team. Kingsbury has to open up the playbook more for his full stable of talent and Murray has to trust his guys on the receiving end.

Erik Ruby, co-host of the Cardinals Corner podcast and 98.7 FM contributor: While it’s tempting to say “give him the best weapons on offense possible,” I don’t believe that is the most important. Very important? Absolutely. However, my football philosophy starts with the people protecting the star quarterback.

The Cardinals need to solidify their O-line as soon as possible. Not just for immediate success, but for sustained success. Murray is only worth that money if he stays on the field. While Hudson will return for this season, the Cardinals still have a lot of long-term questions and holes going past this year.

Kevin Zimmerman, lead editor of The offensive line situation is a bit of an obvious one — just look at the expiring contracts among that group — so I’ll put the emphasis on what Kinsbury does to help Murray take that next leap forward. He admitted as recently as Thursday on The Dave Pasch Podcast that there wasn’t enough done to keep the offense humming after Murray lost Hopkins midway through the 2021 season.

I don’t know what exactly the answer is, but how the Cardinals can teach Murray to see the field beyond matchup hunting starts in the film room and ends with putting him in better positions to do that with play-calls during games.

Leaning on running game coordinator Sean Kugler to bring more balance should be something to consider. That could include using more tight-end heavy sets and upping the play-action percentages. Doing more to stretch the field horizontally (Rondale Moore?) and vertically (Hollywood Brown) might also be more possible considering the skillsets available starting this year.

Kellan Olson, editor and reporter for With Murray signed until he’s 30 years old, the discussion automatically turns to Arizona protecting its own investment and keeping Murray healthy. So, by default, the question presented is how much the Cardinals will choose to utilize Murray’s speed in designed run plays.

In 2020, Murray’s 819 rushing yards made him only the seventh quarterback in NFL history to reach at least 800 in a season. It only makes the Cardinals’ offense more dynamic when Murray’s legs go beyond just his ability to keep a play alive and scramble when necessary. It’s also signing him up to take more hits. Finding that balance and still getting near-maximum value out of Murray’s agility, the one attribute that makes him different than any other QB, is imperative.

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Roundtable: What can the Cardinals do to bring out Kyler Murray’s best?