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QB Kyler Murray Is Mid-Season 1st Team All Pro, per The Athletic

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NFL: Houston Texans at Arizona Cardinals Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The one Arizona Cardinal on The Athletic’s Mid-Season 1st Team All Pro Team is K1 himself, QB Kyler Murray. This is quite aa distinction (through 8 games) for the 7-1 Cardinals and for Kyler Murray when one considers how well Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Dak Prescott, Matthew Stafford, Lamar Jackson and Zach Allen have been playing.

Here is The Athletic’s rationale (per Shiel Kapadia):

QB Kyler Murray #1

“The quarterback position is flat-out loaded right now. If we were going purely based on statistics, Matthew Stafford would be the pick. And you could easily make a case for Dak Prescott, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Lamar Jackson, and Josh Allen, among others.

But Murray gets the nod because the Cardinals are 7-1, and he’s had to put the team on his back for stretches at a time. When the offensive scheme or specific play calls aren’t working, he’s consistently found answers — whether that means carving teams up from the pocket or breaking opponents’ backs by improvising and finding receivers downfield.

Murray is completing 72.7 percent of his passes and averaging 8.9 yards per attempt (YPA). To put those numbers into context, no quarterback in NFL history has reached both those marks in a single season.

If advanced stats are more your thing, he’s third in TruMedia’s Expected Points Added (EPA) per play metric and third in completion percentage above expectation.

Murray is dealing with a leg injury, and the Cardinals’ 2020 season went sideways after he got banged up. But through the first eight weeks, he’s been the most impressive quarterback.”

ROTB Commentary:

What has been especially impressive about Kyler Murray’s performance through 8 games, is how he has taken the Cardinals’ passing game to the next level, by connecting at a high percentage and by spreading the ball very evenly to his host of receivers, much in the same way he did at Oklahoma in 2018 when he won the Heisman Trophy.

Furthermore, while Kyler Murray has run the second highest number of designed QB runs in the NFL, teams have been better prepared to slow him down (147 yards, 3.0 ave., 3 TDs). In light of how well Chase Edmonds (427 yards, 5.7 ave., 1 TD), James Conner (358, 3.8, 8 TDs) and Rondale Moore (61, 5.5,) have carried the ball, it is becoming evident that the Cardinals do not need Kyler Murray to run the ball nearly as often as he and they did in 2019 and 2020.

As well and accurately as Kyler has been passing the ball (2276 yards, 72.7%, 8.9 yards per attempt, 17 TDs) the key for the Cardinals moving forward is to do all they can to protect him. They would be wise to continue to shift the pocket for Kyler, as they have on occasion, like the time Kyler connected with A.J.,Green for a 41 yard go route TD to put the Cardinals up 7-3 over the Rams.

As PFF alluded to, Kyler is now trying to rehab an ankle injury, which he incurred on the second of back-to-back red zone running plays late in the game versus the Packers. As Seth Cox wrote yesterday, the Cardinals would be wise to “have a long-term outlook for Kyler Murray’s ankle.” Thus, hopefully, Kyler can regain the strength in that left ankle, which is his forward plant foot in the passing game, sooner than later.

But, it may have to take Kliff Kingsbury to intercede in order hold Kyler back for however long it takes for him to build back the strength in that ankle. Even at less than 100% strength, Kyler could still sling it with relative authority from the pocket, but the stress and strain he would have to put on the ankle when forced to scramble, could aggravate the injury to the point where it could linger and continue to limit him for weeks.

Kyler’s outstanding 8.9 yards per attempt is very significant because Kyler has been throwing downfield far more regularly this season and it isn’t as if his 72.7 % completion rate has been the result of throwing a hefty number of hitch and screen passes that one typically sees from Air Raid QBs.

The past couple of years, where all too often the Cardinals; offense seemed relegated and confined to a 20 x 53 13 yard yard rectangle of grass, this year the Cardinals are making defenses defend every blade of grass of the 120 x 53 1/3 yard football field with greater aplomb and regularity.

Therefore, because of Kyler Murray’s impressive growth within Kliff Kingsbury’s ever-evolving NFL offense, particularly in terms of reading complex defenses and making key audibles and checks at the line of scrimmage, K1 is worthy of the high praise he’s receiving from the analysts at The Athletic and many others around the NFL.