Kyler Murray or Clayton Tune? Quarterback decisions loom for Cardinals

Nov 3, 2023, 1:45 PM

Kyler Murray practices in Week 9...

Arizona Cardinals QB Kyler Murray attempts a pass during practice on Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)

(Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)

TEMPE — A week of practice has come and gone without a definitive answer as to whether Kyler Murray or Clayton Tune will get the starting nod in Week 9 when the team takes on the Cleveland Browns in Week 9.

But are you really surprised at this point?

The Cardinals kept their cards close to the vest throughout Murray’s rehab from a torn ACL suffered late last season and aren’t about to change up that thinking this close to the finish line. They aren’t even listing a starting quarterback to address the media next week as they typically do, only adding to the mystery.

Arizona is going to take all the time they possibly can when it comes to making a decision. It doesn’t have to officially activate Murray until Saturday, leaving a solid 24 hours on the clock.

“We’ll see as the day goes,” head coach Jonathan Gannon said Friday. “All three of them had a good week and we’ll see how the day goes and start making some decisions.”

But even if Murray is activated off the physically unable to perform list this weekend — he’s officially listed as questionable on the injury report — that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s starting or even playing.

Unlike the flip side — Murray isn’t activated ahead of Sunday and is forced to miss another game — the QB coming off the PUP list presents the potential variable of him serving as Tune’s backup in the matchup.

Now, that reads about as farfetched as it was to type, but it’s still a possibility.

“I think all options are on the table,” general manager Monti Ossenfort told Arizona Sports’ Wolf & Luke on Friday. “It’s a little bit of a moving target here with Kyler and we’re going to take that full time, but I’d say all options are on the table.”

As for what was seen during the open portion of practice on Friday, it was much of the same.

Murray again was working mostly with practice squad members but did get some throws in with tight end Trey McBride and wide receiver Rondale Moore.

It’s safe to say a whole lot of eyes are going to be fixed on the Cardinals’ roster moves Saturday.

Running game question marks

Just when you think you have Arizona’s run game figured out, another wrench gets thrown into the equation with Emari Demercado’s out status for Sunday due to a toe injury.

That means a combination of Keaontay Ingram and Tony Jones Jr. with a likely practice squad contribution from Corey Clement or Hassan Hall will be on tap come Sunday.

Among those four names, Ingram serves as the likely starter out of the backfield for Arizona in Week 9.

While Demercado clearly wrestled away the RB1 role in recent weeks, it was Ingram that got the starting nod in place of the injured James Conner right out of the gates.

In his lone start in Week 6, Ingram ran the rock 10 times for 40 yards and caught both of his targets for 11 yards.

Ingram’s workload has taken a backseat recently, however, with the running back recording just two carries for nine yards and one reception for seven more last week after not logging an offensive snap the game prior.

But when it comes down to it, Ingram is currently the only healthy Cardinals RB with any offensive reps in 2023, as Clement has been used solely on special teams (two games played) and Jones Jr. signing onto the 53-man roster on Thursday.

Cleveland’s crossover king

Regardless of who is starting under center for the Cardinals on Sunday, one thing is for sure:

It’s going to be a long day if Browns defensive lineman and “war daddy” Myles Garrett and his crossover moves aren’t held in check.

“He’s a good player, a really good player, but it’s their whole defense,” Gannon said Wednesday. “(Browns defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz) is one of the best to ever do it.

“They’re fast, aggressive, they’ve got really good players on all three levels, and they’re connected with how they play because it’s a little bit of a different style than ours. They’re one of the top defenses in the NFL. We’ve got a big challenge ahead.”

Entering the matchup, Cleveland sits atop the league in total yards allowed (260) and passing yards allowed (16.3) per game. It’s seventh in rushing yards allowed (96.7) and 12th in points allowed per game (19.9).

But while Garrett is up to 8.5 sacks on the season, the rest of the team has only accounted for 11.5.

On top of that, the Browns are middle of the road defensively when it comes to turnovers, recording just five interceptions and five fumbles in seven games played.

Getting the ball out of the backfield and away from Garrett is 1a, while ball security is 1b for the Cardinals in Week 9.

JG’s homecoming

For the first time in his football career, Gannon will head back to his old stomping grounds in Cleveland as a head coach of one of 32 NFL franchises.

The level of importance of the trip, however, doesn’t increase with the added homecoming factor in Gannon’s eyes.

“It’s the most important one because it’s the next one,” he said Wednesday.

As for who from his hometown is expected to be in attendance for the Week 9 tilt?

“I don’t know. I told them, ‘Don’t bug me,’” Gannon said.

But all short answers and jokes aside, Gannon does have something special planned for the team with Saturday’s walkthrough to be held at Saint Ignatius High School, where the head coach shined as a three-sport athlete.

“It’ll be cool. When we went to Washington on a two-day trip we did the mock game at Georgetown Prep, which is where (Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill) went,” Gannon said. “I’ve got some close buddies that went there, so it was cool to see where they went to high school and things like that.

“It’ll be cool. It’ll be a little chilly out but it’s a really good facility. Our guys will enjoy it.”

Count safety Budda Baker very intrigued with checking out where Gannon called home.

“That’ll be cool to go to his old stomping grounds,” the safety said with a smile. “I’ll probably talk a little smack to him depending on what it looks like.”

Gannon isn’t the only one returning to a familiar setting, either, with offensive coordinator Drew Petzing, quarterbacks coach Israel Woolfork and starting center Hjalte Froholdt knowing a thing or two about the area having been members of the Browns as recent as last season.

Who is favored between the Cardinals and Browns?

Per FanDuel, the Cardinals are 9.5-point underdogs against the Browns. Arizona’s moneyline sits at +360, compared to Cleveland at -460.

The over/under for the tilt is set at 38.5.

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