After Kyler Murray’s solid preseason debut, hopes were high going into last Thursday’s game against the Raiders. Cardinals fans were hoping to see the kid gloves come off a bit against a team that was one of the worst in the league last season. Kyler and the Redbirds had a golden opportunity to make a statement in a nationally televised matchup.
Well, things obviously didn’t go as planned. The first team looked brutal in just about all facets of the game.
In particular, Kyler looked terrible. The stats tell most of the story: 3/8 for a piddling 12 yards and two sacks taken (one for a safety). He just looked off, a clear step back from the Chargers game.
But taking a look at the tape, it wasn’t *all* bad. I mean, it was mostly bad, but there were some glimmers of hope as well. So, watch the tape below, then let’s separate the good from the bad and the ugly of the Raiders debacle.
Mobility: Kyler didn’t get much of a chance to show off his wheels against the Chargers, but he was on the run all night against the Raiders. Sure, not much of it was by design, but Kyler’s obvious speed and agility were on full display, whether he was darting around would-be tacklers on a designed keeper on his first play from scrimmage or eluding pass rushers on just about every play thereafter. Running is going to be a theme for Kyler Murray this season—whether it’s for yards or his life.
Effortless Throws: Although he wasn’t nearly as accurate as he was in his first game, Kyler showed he can really sling it when he wants to. He threw several pretty passes that were just a step or two ahead of his receiver—and hopefully his timing will improve with increased reps. But there was no huge windup on any of his throws, just a nice, easy delivery. It might not happen this season with the O-line issues and very green receiver room behind Fitz, but there’s a potent downfield passing attack just waiting to be unleashed here.
No Turnovers: Even with the pass protection issues and several 3rd-and-longs, Kyler was careful with the football. Like his debut, there were no real dangerous throws—even his inaccurate throws landed harmlessly on the turf. Avoiding turnovers is going to be key if the defense struggles like it looks like it’s going to, so this is a continued good sign from Kyler.
Overthrows: Each of Kyler’s five incompletions sailed over his intended receiver’s head. Gone were the quick, easy throws from the previous game, as the Raiders’ plan to blitz relentlessly clearly caught the team off guard. Kyler’s timing was off all night, and he was never able to get comfortable or into a rhythm, resulting in the sailed passes. Every DC on the Cardinals’ schedule clearly saw what happened Thursday night, so Kingsbury better have a plan for dealing with the blitz moving forward.
Pass Protection: The O-line was a sieve all night, rarely giving Kyler any time to set his feet and drive his passes. The Raiders got to Kyler whenever and however they wanted, especially off the edge. And it would have been a lot worse if not for Kyler’s mobility. (I shudder to think how many sacks Josh Rosen would have taken behind this line.) As many observers have been saying all offseason, it doesn’t look like the minimal moves Steve Keim made to improve the line are going to be enough. Let’s hope Kyler’s legs will be enough to keep him out of harm’s way for 16 games. (That said, David Johnson excelled in blitz pickup all night, so that’s a small blessing at least.)
The Safety: The Raiders perfectly executed the safety blitz, but Kyler has to realize you can’t dive backwards up against the goal line there. But I would love to have seen him adjust the protection or even call timeout there when he saw Lamarcus Joyner crowding the line of scrimmage. Just a horrible play, and one I’m sure they’re glad they got out of the way in the preseason.
Penalties: The amount of yellow to hit the grass against the Cardinals was just embarrassing. I’m still not sure what to make of the two “hand clap” false start penalties, and all the OPI certainly wasn’t Kyler’s fault, but getting a delay of game on your first series at home isn’t a good look at all. These are the kinds of things that *should* clear up with more reps, but we didn’t have a chance with all the 2nd- and 3rd-and-longs. (And, man, Ricky Seals-Jones is not making a case for a roster spot with those two holding penalties.)
The Final Series: It’s understandable that Kingsbury wanted a longer look at Kyler after just the one series against the Chargers, but it was clear from the first three series that the gameplan just wasn’t working against the Raiders, so I was surprised when Kyler came out for a fourth series. Three blitzes, two sacks, and one safety later and Kyler’s night was over. It should have ended before it came to that, though.
The Interview: In-game interviews—especially in-game interviews after you played terribly—are a dubious proposition, so you can’t fault Kyler too much, but, yikes, that was one awkward interview. Hopefully the next one will be with the team nursing a comfortable lead, rather than down three scores.
There’s no way around it—that was a brutal second preseason game for Kyler and the Cardinals. Hey, they can’t all be winners, kid. Now, it’s time to learn how to clap correctly, work on blitz pickup, and look ahead to Minnesota. It can’t get any worse, right?
Your turn, Bird Gang. Give us your own GBU. You see anything good out there last week? There was definitely enough bad and ugly to go around. Let’s commiserate in the comments.