Kyler Murray expected to play under center more, in shotgun less

Feb 21, 2023, 2:13 PM | Updated: 4:25 pm
Kyler Murray #1 and Billy Price #53 of the Arizona Cardinals prepare for a game against the Seattle...
Kyler Murray #1 and Billy Price #53 of the Arizona Cardinals prepare for a game against the Seattle Seahawks at State Farm Stadium on November 06, 2022 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

New Cardinals head coach Jonathan Gannon made it a point during his introduction that quarterback Kyler Murray was not a deterrent but a reason he took the Arizona head-coaching job.

The former Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator believes his background can offer a new perspective to bring something new out of the quarterback.

In NBC Sports’ Peter King’s latest Monday Morning QB column, Gannon laid out the first major hint about what changes to the Arizona offense will be coming in 2023.

Murray will leave Kliff Kingsbury’s Air Raid style attack and line up under center far more often.

“I think we can take him to another level and unleash his full skill set,” Gannon told King. “We’re not gonna put him in gun all the time, I’ll tell you that. We’ll have two significant offenses with his skill set: one being under center and one being in the gun. Then obviously, we’re gonna do what’s comfortable with him. The way to take pressure off the quarterback and the O-line is to put him under center at times. That’s the missing piece I thought they had with Kyler.

“They were in gun all the time. When you’re in gun all the time, you don’t make the defense defend certain play types. Now, when you get him under center, the defense has to defend a lot more type of play types. So there’s really two offenses I see us using.”

NextGenStats has the Cardinals lining up Murray in shotgun 92% of the time dating back to 2020, which was the second-highest rate behind Philadelphia’s Jalen Hurts.

Early on in his tenure as coach, Kingsbury faced questions about his preference for formations out of shotgun.

Following a preseason game of Murray’s and Kingsbury’s rookie year in 2019, the head coach couldn’t explain why some coaches prefer to take a snap under center.

“Your guess is as good as mine,” Kingsbury said. “I don’t know. Somebody would have to explain that one to me, but I don’t know. I can’t tell you. There are certain plays where we may feel the mesh point for the running back (is better) or it’s more a down-hill path, things of that nature — if we needed to hit quicker. But other than that, certain people have different opinions.

“I don’t think anything’s ever been proven to be right or wrong when it comes to that.”

In 2011, only a single team worked out of the gun greater than 60% of the time.

Obviously, there’s been a league-wide shift. The NFL has trended toward Kingsbury’s thinking.

Last year, Murray, Hurts and Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow led the NFL in shotgun snap percentages all above 92%. Hurts and Burrow, of course, were on teams that reached the conference championship games in the postseason.

But even an ardent shotgun believer like Kingsbury can agree there are some challenges under-center snaps might generate for opposing defenses.

The Cardinals under Kingsbury used heavy goalline packages to deceive defenses and open up bootlegs for Murray to use his legs with regularity, though there is surely more of a true passing offense that could build on that little-used gimmick.

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