Keeping the ball in Panthers QB Baker Mayfield’s hands key for Cardinals
Sep 29, 2022, 6:01 PM
TEMPE — After taking the first two rounds, Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray gets another shot at his former Oklahoma teammate of a year Baker Mayfield on Sunday.
This time, however, Murray and the Cardinals head to Carolina instead of Cleveland.
Traded by the Browns to the Panthers this offseason, Mayfield comes with a completely new team, coaching staff and batch of weapons for the Week 4 matchup.
Mayfield is still Mayfield, but everything around him has changed.
“It all goes through the scheme,” defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said Thursday. “Obviously, how you rush certain quarterbacks, what you give them as far as their sight line is the same, but the system’s different, the half back’s different, the receivers are different, so the plan is totally different.”
In his Cardinals tenure, Joseph has dialed up the right game plans for Mayfield. The signal caller is 0-2 with 481 yards and four touchdowns to two interceptions on 69% passing. He’s been sacked six times by the Cardinals defense, with five coming in Arizona’s 2021 win over Mayfield and the Browns.
In that most recent matchup, Mayfield kept the ball in his hands for an average of 3.12 seconds per throw, giving Arizona more time to strike with its pass rush. For comparison, the Cardinals’ 2019 win over the QB saw him hold the ball for an average of 2.29 seconds per throw, per Pro Football Focus. He was sacked just one time.
It may seem minute, but the added time can be the difference between getting the sack or not. In the Cardinals’ two losses that yielded one sack, Los Angeles Rams QB Matthew Stafford (2.59) and Kansas City Chiefs Patrick Mahomes (2.53) were well under Mayfield’s 2021 mark.
This season, Mayfield is hanging around the 2.88-second range across three games and has been sacked nine times, tied for the sixth-most among NFL signal callers.
It’s an area of Mayfield’s game the Cardinals have and can continue to exploit, especially if the offense is without its best weapon in running back Christian McCaffrey, who has not logged a day of practice this week with a thigh issue.
That will make things even tougher in what’s expected to be a wet one for a quarterback sporting just one game over 200 yards passing and three touchdowns to one interception through three games.
It’ll take a collective effort from the defense to make it happen, though, with wide receivers Robbie Anderson and D.J. Moore expected to play this week.
“Pass rush and coverage go hand in hand,” cornerback Marco Wilson said Thursday. “If you have a good pass rush, you’re going to have plays being made in the secondary. Good secondary coverage, you know they’re going to produce some sacks on them guys.
“The backend, we’re aware of that, so we’re going to do our job and try and get those guys some time so they can get in the backfield. And we expect the same out of those guys to put some pressure on the quarterback, so we can make some plays as well.”
As for what Murray thinks of facing Mayfield once again?
He’s more dialed into getting his team back on track than chalking up another win against his former college teammate.
Though a victory on Sunday achieves both.
“I honestly haven’t really thought about it,” Murray said Wednesday. “I talked to him I think it was before they played the Giants or after they played Giants, but other than that it hasn’t really been a big deal in that manner.
“Obviously, we’re both 1-2 so he’s got his own things going on. We’ve got our own things going on, so I think the main focus is really just trying to get a win. I’m going to love to see him obviously, but as far as the competitive nature of the game — like I’ve said every week — we’ve got to win a game.”