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In a perfect world, the “Air Raid” offense with Kyler Murray takes the NFL by storm right away, turning the Arizona Cardinals into one of the most exciting teams in the league.
But it’s rare for anything to be that easy in the NFL. This might take some time.
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Murray’s third preseason game, on Saturday afternoon in Minnesota, was better than his second. Last week, the Oakland Raiders teed off on Murray. Every blitz seemed to be timed right. The Cardinals had 12 yards in four possessions with Murray and trailed 26-0. It was ugly.
The game against the Vikings was much better. There were a lot of things to like. But it was easy to see there will be some rough patches to smooth out.
Kyler Murray settles in early
Coming off the Oakland game, it was concerning that the Cardinals went three-and-out, then Murray’s first pass on Arizona’s next possession was batted down. Murray’s deep ball down the left sideline to Damiere Byrd for 33 yards seemed to calm the rookie down a bit. It was a fine touch pass on a deep ball. Murray got in a bit better rhythm and led the Cardinals to a field goal.
Murray is still a rookie, and has to adjust to the NFL. On a couple third-down plays, Murray had to scramble to escape the rush, but it wasn’t necessarily the oft-criticized offensive line’s fault. Murray didn’t seem to trust the timing of the play, held the ball too long and then had to get out of the pocket. Any growing pains are normal.
Overall, Murray made strides. He made some nice throws. A back-foot throw to Ricky Seals-Jones with the pass rush bearing down was impressive. He hit Byrd on a third-and-7 with great timing for a first down. He quickly found KeeSean Johnson down the field after a zone coverage bust for 29 yards. The Arizona offense converted four of five third downs in one stretch. It was much, much better than the Oakland debacle.
Murray was pulled with 2:24 left in the second quarter. The Cardinals offense had 184 yards, eight first downs, three field goals and no touchdowns at that point. Murray was 14-of-21 for 137 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions. It was better, but probably not as good as the Cardinals would like with two weeks before the regular season.
Cardinals offense will have adjustments
It’s still possible Kliff Kingsbury’s offense gets off to a fast start. We should assume we’re seeing a scaled-back version of the offense; enough to get some live reps for a rookie quarterback and the rest of the players learning the system, but not so much that early season opponents will have a blueprint.
Still, there’s work to be done. The timing doesn’t seem too comfortable yet. The offensive line is still an issue. For all his talent and even his familiarity with the offensive scheme, Murray is still a rookie. When Brett Hundley got in the game, he immediately had two false-start penalties related to Arizona’s “clap snap,” which was a problem last week and is something that could be a problem as NFL officials get used to it.
There’s reason to believe the Cardinals will still have a fun and productive offense this season. They’ll be a team worth watching all season, which wasn’t the case last year. It just might not come all that easy on offense, especially early on.
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