Cardinals’ Kyler Murray moves 1 step closer to full return
Oct 27, 2023, 4:45 PM
(Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)
TEMPE — Does Arizona Cardinals QB Kyler Murray really return to action for the first time since last December against the Baltimore Ravens this week?
That my friends has been the biggest question surrounding the Cardinals in Week 8 after the quarterback got another week of practice under his belt.
And while Friday’s injury report has the QB officially listed as doubtful for the matchup, likely signaling he isn’t quite ready to take over under center, Murray’s closer than he was just a week prior.
Unlike his limited showing in Week 7 before eventually being ruled out, the franchise QB was a full participant Wednesday before not carrying an injury designation altogether the following two days ahead of his doubtful designation.
Despite the update, Murray still worked with only practice squad members during the open portion of practice throughout the week. That’s not to say he wasn’t getting work in with the first team, though there’s no telling how much time he spent with the 1s.
Jonathan Gannon meanwhile continues to keep his cards close to the vest when it comes to the quarterback’s potential availability, though called Murray fully healthy and likes what he’s seeing out of the signal caller two weeks into practice.
“The ball jumps off of his hand, he’s explosive getting out of the pocket, he’s accurate, got good command of the offense right now and he threads the needle pretty well on some certain throws,” Gannon said ahead of Friday’s practice.
As far as his mental health?
“Excellent, excellent,” Gannon said of Murray’s headspace. “He’s doing great.”
Since the new regime arrived to the desert, it’s always been when Murray is “physically and mentally ready to play.”
I don’t know about you, but those boxes seem to be checked at this point. But until Murray is activated off the physically unable to perform list — which doesn’t seem to be the case this week — it’s still anyone’s guess.
While there’s still unknown as to whether or not Arizona will have its dual-threat quarterback active, the same can’t be said for Baltimore, who will have 2019 MVP Lamar Jackson under center on Sunday.
Arizona has faced some tough tests at quarterback this season, but none match up to what Jackson brings to the table.
“They’re a really good football team. Lamar Jackson is doing a great job of getting the ball out, whether it’s quick game, intermediate throws or even deep throws. He’s a guy that can also get out of that pocket. In the blink of an eye, he’s getting 20 yards. It’s definitely a big challenge for us.”
Helping lead his team to a 5-2 mark, Jackson has completed a career high 71% of his throws for 1,610 yards and eight touchdowns to three interceptions. He’s well on his way to setting a new career high for rushing touchdowns, having amassed five to go along with 363 yards on 69 carries. He’s averaging a solid 5.3 yards per attempt.
It also helps that Jackson has Odell Beckham Jr., Mark Andrews, Zay Flowers, Nelson Agholor and Rashod Bateman on the other end of his throws.
For the Cardinals defense, it’s all about keeping Baltimore as one-dimensional as possible and limit Jackson’s explosive plays through the air and on the ground.
For the offense, it’s about limited Jackson’s time on the field altogether.
“I have a lot of respect for him and his game,” Cardinals QB Joshua Dobbs said Wednesday. “Being in Pittsburgh, we played against him obviously twice (a year) and to see his progression that he’s had throughout his NFL career and to see the level that he’s playing at … he’s playing at a high-level.
“We know what type of playmaker is coming here to Arizona this week and so the onus is on us as an offense to keep him off the field as much as possible. Possess the football, execute on crucial third downs and stay on the field.”
You don’t have to look far to find that the Ravens reign supreme when it comes to pass rushing.
Through seven games, Baltimore paces the NFL with 29 sacks, one more than the Buffalo Bills who have played one more game.
Leading the way in the sack department for the Ravens is defensive lineman Justin Madubuike with 5.5. He’s far from the only one, though, with four others logging at least three sacks so far in 2023. Twelve players in total have at least one sack on the team.
And after Dobbs was taken down a season high four times against a lesser Seattle Seahawks defense, the offensive line has its work cut out come Sunday.
“I think they play a pretty selfless defense and they bring them from all over the place,” Cardinals OL coach Klayton Adams said Friday. “They have a very challenging scheme and they’re very well coached.”
They are especially stingy where it counts the most, too.
“Their pressure packages on third down even going back the past 12 years have been relatively exotic,” Adams added. “They bring them from all over the place, they change their packages up week to week, they’ll change the pattern of who’s rushing, they’ll give you one look and build a tendency on it and then they’ll break it.
“They do a very nice job of self-scouting and self-regulating what they’re doing and making it a little bit tougher to find patterns when you’re game planning.”
Quick passes and a concerted effort to run the ball early on could go a long way in limiting Baltimore’s production from that standpoint.