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No pity from the kitty: Observations from Kyler’s Sunday struggles

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Kyler Murray had his first “bad” game of his rookie season last week. Here are a few quick observations on the #1 overall pick after the dud.

NFL: Carolina Panthers at Arizona Cardinals
The wrong K-named QB had the big game on Sunday. What can we take away from Kyler’s off game against the Panthers?
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Kyler Murray’s third game as a professional was his least effective game yet. The 2 TDs and 69 rushing yards were nice, but a 4.0 YPA and 2 INTs isn’t going to cut it—even at home, even against an unheralded backup QB.

It was supposed to be Kyler that had the big game, not Kyle. And hey, did you know that he and Kyle Allen played together at Texas A&M? Cool subplot that no one really talked about every other play for the entire game.

Anyway, Sunday’s game was supposed to be a nice spot for a home win, but the entire team faceplanted against the Panthers—including Kyler. It wasn’t all bad though. With that in mind, here are a few quick Kyler-centric observations from Week 3.

He Wasn’t the Reason We Lost

I’ve seen this ridiculous take from several Cardinals fans over the past few days, so let me just take a moment to dispel this notion. No, Kyler didn’t have his best game, but he can’t block, punt, cover tight ends, tackle Christian McCaffrey, devise a better defensive gameplan against a fill-in QB, or catch his own perfectly thrown passes. Now, he did take several avoidable sacks and throw two picks, but most of that happened when the Cardinals were already down and the Panthers were going in for the kill. We might have lost by a little less without some of the negative plays from Kyler, but the Panthers were just the better team on Sunday.

It Was Nice to See Him Finally Running

Some of Kyler’s runs last week were out of necessity, but it looks like Kliff Kingsbury is starting to expand the offensive playbook a bit. Designed QB runs were clearly a bigger part of the gameplan than they had been. But whether Kyler was running by design or for his life, he did it well on Sunday—8 carries for those 69 yards (8.6 YPC). And he looked good doing it, showing incredible burst and agility on several runs. If Kliff (and the O-line) ever let him, he can absolutely have a Mike Vick/Lamar Jackson type 100+ yard running day. He’ll need to work on ball security though—there were a couple times when he was holding the ball in the careless kind of way young QBs often do. That said, he did a great job of avoiding hard contact when running outside of the pocket.

He Needs to Work on Pocket Awareness

Walter and others have already pointed this out, but it bears repeating. Kyler went down 8 times against the Panthers, and a good half of them were partially to mostly his own fault—especially at the end of the game. If the pocket is breaking down (and it was all dang day on Sunday), there comes a point where you either need to throw the ball away or just go down. Kyler’s moxie in trying to extend plays is admirable, but it resulted in several sacks against the Panthers. You can dance around in a collapsing pocket against the Baylors and Texas Techs of the world in college, but not against NFL defensive lines. He’ll learn that—if he hasn’t already. On the other end of the spectrum, both of his interceptions came when he threw the ball too early against pressure. It’s understandable that his internal clock was off after the beating he took, but you’ve got to be able to hang tough as well sometimes.

There Might Already Be a Blueprint Against Kyler

When Kyler has struggled most—the first three quarters against the Lions, most of the second half against the Panthers—the opposing defenses haven’t really done anything too complex. They mostly were able to get pressure rushing just four and largely kept the Cardinals receivers in front of them, eliminating yards after the catch—nothing revolutionary. Not every team has the personnel to do this—stout D-line, speed at LB and safety to spy Kyler and match the Redbirds’ 4 WR sets—but teams that do (the Rams and 49ers, for example) will be problematic for our young QB. Fortunately, we should match up well in that regard with our next two opponents: the Seahawks and Bengals. Perhaps the offense can get back on track a bit over the next two weeks… and perhaps earn us our first win?

Final Thoughts

Sunday was a bit of a step back for the #1 overall pick, but only because his first two weeks were so strong—unfortunately, he wasn’t able to become the first QB in NFL history to throw for 300 yards in each of his first three games.

I heard a lot of grumbling about how he “looked like a rookie” against the Panthers. Well, I have news for those folks: he IS a rookie. He’s gonna play like it sometimes, as we saw over the weekend. Now, it’ll be up to him (and his coach) to adjust with a tough divisional foe coming to town next.

Let’s talk Kyler in the comments. What did you make of his first “bad” game? Did you see any positive takeaways? Do you think he turns it around against Seattle? Let us know!