CARDINALS CORNER

How do Kyler Murray’s 2024 weapons compare to his past Cardinals teams?

Jun 7, 2024, 3:52 PM

TEMPE — The talent around Kyler Murray throughout five years with the Arizona Cardinals has included Larry Fitzgerald, Christian Kirk, Kenyan Drake and DeAndre Hopkins.

Entering Year 6, though, the offensive cast looks a whole lot different thanks to both a scheme overhaul and replenishment of riches.

A down hasn’t been played, but the excitement Murray has for this iteration of the unit is on another level.

Dropping in No. 1 option Marvin Harrison Jr. alongside Trey McBride, James Conner, Michael Wilson, Greg Dortch and other playmakers was the icing on the cake.

“I was geeked up when we drafted him, because you got Trey, you got James, Mike, Dortch and all the guys we added and you get a guy like that,” Murray told Arizona Sports’ Wolf & Luke on Thursday. “I don’t envision us drafting top five, you don’t an opportunity to get a guy like that. When a guy like that is hitting you in the face, because the quarterbacks are going to go, to me it was kind of a no-brainer.

“Obviously, the best receiver in the draft I felt like. He had a great day today. I believe he’s going to go show it. We got to keep connecting and getting better, but the talent that he is, it’s natural. There’s a lot of things that he does that you can’t even coach. (Drafting him) was a no-brainer, but just to add him in on top of the guys that we have, that’s another thing that guys have to worry about, defenses got to worry about, they got to scheme for. Or don’t and find out.”

On top of Harrison’s gifts as a receiver and his NFL lineage, he brings legit WR1 size to the equation, something that has eluded the offense for years.

After having Fitzgerald (6-foot-3) and DeAndre Hopkins (6-foot-1) as his primary No. 1 options early on in his career, Murray had Hollywood Brown (5-foot-9) as the team’s WR1 the past two seasons. Despite the strong rapport, those on the outside looking in needed to see more between the pair.

It’s not just Harrison that has Murray calling this one of the best groups he’s been a part of, either.

General manager Monti Ossenfort made it a priority to revamp the wide receivers room this offseason. Harrison was the big get, but the addition of veteran Zay Jones could go a long way in shoring up the depth chart.

And don’t forget about Wilson and Dortch, two players Murray is very high on who should benefit from the change inside the room.

“I feel like Dortch is unguardable as far as 1-on-1, knowing where to be in the zones,” Murray said Wednesday. “He’s got the nuance and the savvy to him that you want in a receiver and not everybody has it. It’s not very common. If he was 6-foot-3, he’d be a top five pick in the NFL. That’s the type of football player he is and he loves the game. I’ll go to war with Greg every day.

“Mike’s going to be playing for a long time. I fully believe that,” the signal caller added. “He’s one of those guys I call at 3 a.m. and he’s there. He loves this (expletive). I fully expect Mike to go off this year for sure.”

Excitement beyond the Cardinals’ passing game

A lot has been made of the additions — and subtractions of Brown and Rondale Moore — that the Cardinals made in the wide receivers room this offseason.

The run game behind starter Conner, however, is still the strength of Arizona’s offense.

After ranking as one of the top teams on the ground upon Murray’s return from Week 10 on, the Cardinals have been calculated in improving the overall attack.

The signing of starting right tackle Jonah Williams got the ball rolling this offseason. Drafting running back Trey Benson, blocking tight end Tip Reiman and guard Isaiah Adams this past April brought in even more talent.

Conner meanwhile is coming off his best year as a pro behind a career high 1,040 yards to go along with seven touchdowns on 208 carries. He chipped in another 165 yards and two scores on 27 catches, a part of his game Arizona wants to utilize even more in 2024.

And as ESPN’s Mina Kimes and others have pointed out, the room as a whole is underrated.

Behind Conner now sits Benson, Michael Carter and Emari Demercado. Benson was regarded as one of the top running backs in the draft. Carter flashed as a midseason waiver claim and gets a full offseason with the franchise, while Demercado picked up valuable experience as a rookie and made a name for himself in pass protection.

Murray gets a shoutout, too, as a proven rushing threat and is coming off 244 yards and three touchdowns on 44 carries in his abbreviated 2024 season.

And not to be left to the wayside is McBride, who gives Murray a true playmaker at tight end following 825 receiving yards and three touchdowns last year.

Which Murray-led offense rivals the potential of 2024?

Obviously, having a strong roster on paper in the offseason does little when the lights come on, but expectations seem warranted in the month of June.

That begs the question, has there ever been a Murray-led offense with this much warranted optimism?

For reference, here’s a quick snapshot of how the offensive starters could shake out come Week 1:

Projected Cardinals starters in 2024

– Kyler Murray
– James Conner
– Marvin Harrison Jr.
– Michael Wilson (or Zay Jones)
– Greg Dortch
– Trey McBride

Looking back, there are two prior offseasons that stick out above the rest since Murray went No. 1 overall in the 2019 NFL Draft.

The first is 2020:

Cardinals starters in 2020

– Kyler Murray
– Kenyan Drake
– Larry Fitzgerald
– DeAndre Hopkins
– Christian Kirk
– Dan Arnold

After getting his feet wet as a rookie in 2019, the addition of Hopkins and Drake provided the quarterback with extra ammo. Hopkins ended up reeling in 115 catches for 1,407 yards and six touchdowns. Drake added 955 yards and 10 scores on 239 carries.

Kirk filled in nicely as Arizona’s WR2, behind 621 yards and six touchdowns on 48 receptions.

Fitzgerald, however, left a lot on the field in his final year with just 409 yards and a touchdown to show for 2020.

Arnold added another 438 yards and four scores at tight end.

The Cardinals finished the year at 8-8.

The second season in this discussion is 2021:

Cardinals starters in 2021

– Kyler Murray
– Chase Edmonds/James Conner
– A.J. Green
– DeAndre Hopkins
– Christian Kirk
– Maxx Williams/Zach Ertz

The Cardinals offense in 2021 is the standard to beat with or without the meteoric slide to end the year.

Even before adding Ertz midseason, Arizona had legit options throughout the offense.

Kirk ended up just 18 yards shy of the 1,000-yard mark with five touchdowns, while Green added another 848 and three scores. Hopkins in an abbreviated season due to PED suspension reeled in eight touchdowns and 572 yards. Edmonds, who made 11 starts that season, registered 903 total yards along with two scores, while Conner made his name known in the desert with 18 total touchdowns.

Starting out 7-0, Arizona managed to win just four more games on its way to an 11-6 mark and Wild Card berth.

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