After all of this, ever since the hiring of Kliff Kingsbury and the shocking draft pick of Kyler Murray, preseason football has wrapped up. Next time, the game will be played on State Farm Stadium in front of a roaring crowd in a game that actually matters.
As we exit the pre-season and enter the regular season, it bodes well to reflect on what we learned throughout the last four weeks of practice, the “dress rehearsals” if you will for the NFL in 2019.
Let’s take a look at the top 5 takeaways from these past four preseason games, starting with the talk of the town...
#1. Kyler Murray showed he truly has star potential
The Cards took their first overall selection and while he’s done nothing in a game that matters as far as PRODUCTION, his incredible POTENTIAL was demonstrated across the field. Outside of a clapping conundrum in Oakland that seemed to throw off his rhythm, (more on that later) Murray showcased accurate, well-timed throws that got there to the receiver quickly, solid pocket presence along with escapability, and mastery of the Cardinals offense under Kliff Kingsbury.
If the Cardinals regular season is vastly different scheme and play-calling wise from the preseason, that might only improve Murray’s performance. But even if what we see is what we get, he’s shown himself to have upside to be one of the best in the league. He had his best game against the Vikings and while no touchdowns were thrown by him in the preseason, it didn’t look like scoring was going to be a problem for the team.
Sure, he’s got areas to work on, missed some throws, left a pocket or two maybe a bit early and will have some rookie growing pains, but he didn’t take a lot of sacks, didn’t turn the ball over and ultimately showed he can move the offense. Already more than Josh Rosen did in 2018 under an old-school coaching staff. It’s hard to know the ceiling in 2019 for the Cards, but Murray’s ceiling is high as the sky itself at this point. As long as...
#2. Protection a problem?
...He isn’t running for his life on every snap. Murray’s athleticism and ability to throw on the run and get away from defenders means he won’t need a great O-Line blocking for him like a Carson Palmer or a Josh Rosen might.
But we did see enough whiffs and men in the backfield where he had to scramble that it sets a few fans on edge whenever a guy gets close to their new quarterback. And the run-blocking has overall been pretty poor as well. That doesn’t matter so much as a smaller quarterback in Murray being protected well enough to go through his reads and not bail on a pocket too soon because he doesn’t trust his line.
Add in the fact that while Marcus Gilbert didn’t miss any games, Justin Pugh did and the offensive line doesn’t have exactly a clean bill of health. It’ll be something to watch versus a good defensive line in the Lions coming to town Week 1.
#3. The Clap is a Trap
Game #1-No flags and no problems with Murray’s clapping. Hm.
Game #2-The referees called three false start penalties on the Cardinals for “simulating the snap” with clapping despite the fact that, according to former refs and rules experts, there should be no issue with that at all
Game #3-Murray switched to a silent count but as soon as the Cardinals brought in Brett Hundley, the clap returned and the flags flew twice more. OOF.
Game #4-The clap wasn’t even used, and Kliff Kingsbury said it was “because it was a road game.”
Sure, Kliff. Sure.
Like it wasn’t a road game last week against the Vikings with Hundley?
The NFL has made it clear that they are going to interpret the rule on clapping any way they damn well please.
And as such, while Kliff Kingsbury and the Cardinals might be in the right, that doesn’t matter if the National Football League doesn’t want to make it a black and white issue. It’s become like a passive aggressive relationship. You know the type.
Say your significant other leaves the eggs outside the fridge. The first time you might put them back. The second time, you might put them back and leave a note on it. The third time you might get upset and decide to leave them out, to teach a lesson. And after that you might just throw the eggs away completely.
Note: (This isn’t a depicted healthy relationship, by the way).
But that’s what the NFL is doing with Kingsbury, and it was a point of emphasis AS SOON as the Cards came back out to throw the flag twice saying “We don’t want this.”
As Anakin Skywalker might have said in Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith “It’s outrageous. It’s unfair.”
Life ain’t fair tho. And I wonder if we will ever see the clap again or if it’ll be on a game-by-game basis depending on the crew.
#4. Questions on Defense Remain
The Cardinals run defense got shredded by the first team Chargers and Raiders (before Patrick Peterson disappeared no less) leading many to question if the team did indeed see one of Kliff Kingsbury’s Texas Tech defenses follow him to the desert. While that tightened up some in the third preseason game amongst the starters, the team still gave up and 80 yard touchdown run to Dalvin Cook and that stung to watch after the supposed improvement of last season.
We learned that 4 of the Cards’ expected starters, not just 1, might not be there for week 1, as we saw Dennis Gardeck and Joe Walker, Chris Jones, Trumaine Brock Byron Murphy and Zach Allen all fill in for the likes of Hassan Reddick, Robert Alford, Darius Philon and of course, Patrick Peterson.
That’s 4 rookies or young players, with Brock the only veteran of the bunch who’s seen extended NFL playing time.
Those questions will continue into the regular season until the team proves otherwise.
#5. KeeSean Johnson the true diamond in the rough
Many people probably expected Andy Isabella or Hakeem Butler or both to step up and seize a starting wide receiver spot for the Cards this year.
Instead, it’s the biggest story that no one is talking about in KeeSean Johnson who did instead. While not the fastest guy in the world (remind you of any other former Cardinal great WR’s?) Johnson developed a rapport with Murray and all the other quarterbacks in being able to separate from coverage with routes, make tough catches and be quite the reliable guy on the sideline.
Kyler targeted him as much as he did Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk and he looks to be an impact player from day 1.
Which is stunning considering that 19 other rookie wide receivers were drafted ahead of him. And yet, he’s looking to make as big of or a bigger impact than guys drafted 3 rounds ahead of him, and finished the preseason (I believe) leading the team in targets averaging over 10 yards a catch.
The sad part is, it might be time to get worried about Andy Isabella and the team needed to sign another outside receiver in Crabtree after Hakeem Butler disappointed. But in the end, you’ll take a win where you find it, whether it’s the #1 overall pick or it’s an Undrafted Free Agent find. Here’s hoping Johnson continues to show the world that those 19 guys ahead of him were all just motivation.
What were your preseason takeaways? Sound off below in the comments!