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NFL ready?: Five observations from Kyler Murray’s debut

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Kyler Murray’s debut was short but sweet. Here are five observations from the rookie’s first preseason game.

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NFL: Preseason-Los Angeles Chargers at Arizona Cardinals
#1 overall pick Kyler Murray got his first taste of NFL action last week. How did he fare?
Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Last Thursday, Cardinals fans finally got what they had waited all summer for: their first look at #1 overall pick Kyler Murray. It was a brief appearance—just a single series—but Murray looked good, going 6-7 for 44 yards in leading the team to three first downs. He also received an impressive 82.9 grade from PFF.

What can we learn beyond these numbers? It’s tough to say for sure, given the brevity of his appearance (just 11 snaps) and the very basic offense the team ran, but I came away with five observations after watching the tape from his debut. (Watch for yourself below.)

Perfect Ball Placement

Murray had seven pass attempts against the Chargers, and none of them was off-target. Six were completions, and the one incompletion was an on-target pass that resulted the KeeSean Johnson illegal touching penalty. So he was accurate, yes, but more than that, his ball placement was immaculate. Each pass either hit the receiver in stride or was perfectly located along the sideline where only the receiver could get to it. The receivers mostly ran simple routs—outs, curls, a screen—but the ball was put exactly where it needed to be each time. That should be a relief to Cardinals fans after dealing with Josh Rosen’s scattershot passes for most of last season. (He looked decent in his Dolphins debut, by the way, but there were still several frustrating throws mixed in with some pretty ones.)

Quick Decision-Making

Part of this was no doubt due to the basic scheme the team was running—and quick passes will be a feature of Kliff Kingsbury’s offense given our shoddy O-line—but it looked like Murray threw to his first read on every pass. He did look off his first read multiple times, but it seemed like the pass went to his first option on each attempt. With the state of our O-line, Murray is going to be under fire a lot this season—and he was hurried once and sacked once on his eight dropbacks against the Bolts—so it’s a good sign that he’s getting the ball out quickly already.

Didn’t Force Anything

This is related to the last observation, but it’s worth noting separately that Murray didn’t force any throws and took what was in front of him. Rookie quarterbacks tend to make a lot of dangerous throws when there’s no one open or when they’re under pressure, but there was none of that from Murray last Thursday. Each of his passes was within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage (that basic scheme again), and Murray didn’t try to force anything downfield. Even his one throw under pressure (the KeeSean Johnson penalty) was a safe throw to the sideline. We’ll certainly see Murray show off his arm at some point, but it was good to see him being smart with the football in his first NFL action.

Mobility

Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately for the injury worrywarts out there), Murray didn’t get much of a chance to show off his mobility against the Chargers. Kingsbury didn’t call any designed QB runs (probably smart), and the one RPO was a rinky-dink 1-yard pass to Larry Fitzgerald. He did have a nice, easy pass to Trent Sherfield on a designed rollout that resulted in a first down though. The play that most showed off his mobility was that KeeSean Johnson play. The right side of the O-line (starters Marcus Gilbert and J.R. Sweezy) completely fell apart, but Murray was able to easily avoid two Chargers rushers and fire a bullet to Johnson. It looked like someone hit speed boost in a video game. I’m excited to see what he can do when Kingsbury lets him take the car out of the garage.

The Eye Test

Accurate passes, good decisions with the football, and a dash of mobility—yeah, Murray passed the “eye test” in his first NFL action. He looked cool and composed out there, just like he has all summer by all reports. No rookie jitters, no bad body language, no negative plays (the sack he took was 100% on the O-line—Gilbert and D.J. Humphries were a good half-second slow against the rush). Of course, it’s a small sample size in an utterly meaningless glorified walkthrough, but he looked much better than Rosen did at this time last year. Is that enough to quell the doubters? Not yet, not by a longshot. But it’s a great starting point.

Final Thoughts

Murray passed his first NFL test last week. This week, the Raiders come to town and Murray figures to play much more than just a single series. The will likely be a bit more complex, and Murray will hopefully be asked to do more than throw a few 5-yard outs as the team ramps up for the “dress rehearsal” game in Week 3 of the preseason. Check back in next week to see how he did in his second NFL appearance.

In the meantime, let us know what you thought of Murray’s debut in the comments. What did you like? Anything you didn’t like? Predictions/hopes for the Raiders game? Let’s talk Kyler in the comments.