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K1 and K2’s Texas Two Step

Arizona Cardinals v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

When Kyler Murray said this week that “I am not a 6’7” and 240 pounder who can throw the ball 95 yards,” it got me to thinking about how realistic it is for Kyler to be expected to go through typical NFL QB 3-4 progression options.

The NFL QBs who have been made to order for executing 3-4 read progressions have been bigger, taller passers who can hang in the pocket as long as it takes to hit their 3rd and 4th reads. You know, QBs like Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Ryan.

Here is an NFL Network video wherein the point is made about young, mobile QBs coming into the NFL and having trouble executing 3-4 read progressions:

Since the time that this video was filmed, young, mobile QBs have been assimilating much better to the NFL game, largely because NFL offenses have changed their philosophies with regard to 3-4 read progressions.

For Kyler Murray, his transition into the NFL was aided and abetted by being paired with a head coach and play caller who inserted Kyler into an offense that he has been running since his historic days at Allen High School and at Oklahoma.

Before we go any further, it is important to note that the kind of offense today that give defensive coordinators the most problems is a spread type offense with a fast, mobile QB who can bolt the pocket asap if his first or second read is taken away.

I will never forget a Cardinals’ pre-game show back in 2005 when defensive guru John Fox was asked whether he would rather face the Cardinals’ Kurt Warner or Josh McCown and Fox, without hesitation, said that McCown, because of his mobility, created more of a problem for his defense.

Now, this was before Kurt Warner’s glory years with the Cardinals, but the point is, even as far back as 2005, defensive coordinators knew how much more difficult it was to prepare for mobile QBs.

The dilemma that mobile QBs create for defensive coordinators is whether it would be best to play a more steady diet of zones, because in man-to-man, if the receivers clear out a side of the field or the middle of the field, a mobile QB can bolt the pocket and run for huge chunk plays through wide open stretches of grass. With zones, it assures that defenders can stay within their areas of the field and be in a position to come up and make tackles on the QB.

Thus, the question of today’s thread is: what is the best philosophy, read and progression-wise for Kyler Murray?

Defensive minded coaches like Brian Flores, Bill Belichick and Raheem Morris have elected to run a steady diet of zone defenses versus Kyler Murray, wherein they disguise the coverage by rolling up their CBs to play press and fill in behind them with safeties. The aim is to take away the type of quick first read passes that Kyler and Kliff love to run, while maintaining the balance of field coverage via 3 to 4 man zones across the formation.

One of the very smart counters that Kliff Kingsbury has made is to put more emphasis of the passing game on the tight ends and running backs. Perhaps you have noticed this year that the Cardinals have assembled the kind of 3-4 deep TE and RB rooms that the Patriots have typically employed.

  • 2022 TEs: Zach Ertz, Maxx Williams, Trey McBride, Stephen Anderson
  • 2022 RBs: James Conner, Darrel Williams, Eno Benjamin, Jonathan Ward, Keaontay Ingram

Having skilled receivers at TE and RB presents significant matchup problems for defenses versus both man and zone. The TEs and RBs now become an issue for the 3-4 man 2nd line of defense. And because of it, those 3 to 4 defenders are more at risk in trying to cover their man while still trying to keep an eye on Kyler Murray in case he takes off.

Thus, when it comes to QB progressions for Kyler, here are two concepts that would seem to make a lot of sense:

  1. Designed Decoy 3rd-4th option plays, where Kyler, off the snap, looks (decoys) to one side of the field to suggest his first two reads are to that side of the field, and then quickly turns to throw a backside post or swing pass.
  2. What I call the Texas Two Step: (1) Hit first read (pass or designed run); (2) Hit check down or QUICK ESCAPE. Very much like this:

What you see from Manziel here is what defensive coordinators fear the most, both in terms of giving up big pass plays on first reads and what can happen when the defense loses the pocket to a skillful, dual-threat QB. What happened repeatedly here was how Manziel created his own run and pass options by moving through or away from the pocket —- something that no one on the planet can do quite as brilliantly as Kyler Murray.

Who was Johnny Manziel’s offensive coordinator at Texas A&M? Kliff Kingsbury.

The Texas 2 Step was Kliff’s play scheme for Johnny Manziel.

To expect Kyler Murray to be able to hang in the pocket long enough to read and hit 3rd and 4th options in his progressions is unrealistic. Every defensive coordinator in the NFL would lick his chops to see the Cardinals try to do this more often. The plays in which Kyler Murray holds on to the ball at the back end of the pocket more than usual are they plays where he tends to get in the most trouble. Like the pick six from the end zone in the playoff game versus the Rams. Or like a number of his 10-14 yard losses on sacks.

Plus, the clincher is that Kyler Murray, because of his lack of height, is loath to step up into the pocket. Therefore, one can argue that the Cardinals, with Murray at QB, do not employ a traditional pocket.

The play scheme for Kyler Murray is as simple as this: get the ball out quickly or move the pocket, quickly.

What do all of Kyler Murray’s Top 10 plays in 2021 have in common?

By the way, for those of you who are still feeling very negatively about Kyler Murray, it’s now official: Kyler Murray is the Cardinals’ franchise QB through 2027. Kliff said of Kyler that when “he is at his best”, he’s as good as any QB on the planet. I agree. Don’t you?

While I and many of you would have liked to see Kyler, his agent and Michael Bidwill handle this off-season in a much different manner, it does us little good to hold grudges or to keep wallowing in negativity. Time to escape the pocket and move on, right?