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Cardinals, Kliff Kingsbury Want To Solve Slow Starts

Notes: Kyler Murray's practice work increasing; Vet TE joins practice squad

Coach Kliff Kingsbury talks to QB Kyler Murray and WR Larry Fitzgerald during a break in play against the Bills earlier this season.
Coach Kliff Kingsbury talks to QB Kyler Murray and WR Larry Fitzgerald during a break in play against the Bills earlier this season.

The Cardinals are still, in terms of total offense, leading the NFL. They are a top-10 team in scoring

What they have not been able to do is figure out how to make that ability filter into the kind of starts to games that could make their life so much easier – only once in 10 games have the Cards scored a touchdown on their opening possession. That was a four-yard TD catch by DeAndre Hopkins against Washington in Week 2.

"That's a great question and one we're trying to figure out," coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "Like I've said all along, we've had some really positive moments offensively (but) we still lead the league in negative plays, which is something we have to get cleaned up as we enter the back half of the schedule.

"You'd like to have your first 10 or 15 plays be highly successful. I know that's kind of the mantra around the league is you have your scripted plays and those run smoothly and you get off to a good start and we just haven't been able to do that for a myriad of reasons."

Of the 10 first possessions, six have ended in a punt, one a touchdown, one a field goal, and two in turnovers – one of which was returned for a touchdown. Only three of the drives have generated more than 12 yards.

In four of the last seven games, the Cards went three-and-out, and in two others, they had just five plays.

Not surprisingly, the Cardinals have led after the first quarter only three times – against the Washington Football Team, the Lions, and the Jets. The last four games they have trailed after a quarter (and were tied at zero against the Cowboys the game proceeding.

"Eventually, we get it going, every game we play," wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. "But it would be amazing if we could do it from the first time we touched the football, go down and put together a great seven or eight-play scoring drive just to set the game up and put ourselves in the driver's seat early as opposed to doing it only when our backs are against the wall.

"The game is hard enough, and when you put yourself in tough positions it makes it that much more difficult. There is no better time to start than this week. Let's go out, score points in the first quarter, and continue the onslaught. That'd be great."

MURRAY'S SHOULDER AND THREE ACTIVE QBs

QB Kyler Murray was on the side during the open portion of practice Wednesday but had his helmet and threw on the side with greater velocity than he did on Tuesday as he tries to deal with an injured shoulder. He was officially limited in practice.

Kingsbury acknowledged the Cardinals "definitely discussed" the possibility of having all three quarterbacks – including backup Chris Streveler and Brett Hundley – active in New England. Every other game, Hundley has been inactive this season. But Kingsbury said the final decision will come down to the confidence level in Murray's health going into the weekend.

DINGS OF THE DEFENSIVE LINE

The Cardinals may have Zach Allen – still officially on IR with an ankle injury – back and practicing but defensive lineman Josh Mauro (hamstring) is the latest on the unit sitting out. Defensive lineman Rashard Lawrence (ankle), who like Allen had officially returned to practice, also was absent during the open portion of practice as the clock ticks on his potential return from IR.

Kingsbury said Allen's return to the roster figures to happen before Lawrence.

Sitting out practice along with Mauro were wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (illness), tight end Maxx Williams (illness), tight end Darrell Daniels (ankle), and safeties Jalen Thompson (ankle) and Charles Washington (groin). Guard Justin Murray (hand) was limited.

For the Patriots, tackle Isaiah Wynn (knee), defensive linemen Tashawn Bower (illness) and Carl Davis (concussion), and running back Rex Burkhead (knee) didn't practice. Limited were linebacker Ja'Whaun Bentley (groin), defensive lineman Adam Butler (shoulder), defensive lineman Byron Cowart (back), kicker Nick Folk (back), cornerback Stephon Gilmore (hand), defensive lineman Lawrence Guy (shoulder/elbow/knee), wide receiver N'Keal Harry (shoulder), tight end Ryan Izzo (hamstring), guard Shaq Mason (calf), wide receiver Matthew Slater (knee) and guard Joe Thuney (ankle).

KINGSBURY HOPEFUL AFTER THOMPSON LANDS ON COVID LIST

Despite safety Deionte Thompson going on the Reserve/COVID-19 list this week, Kingsbury said he was optimistic the Cardinals had done a good job with protocols to prevent an outbreak. The league is bracing for a bumpy December because of COVID problems – on Wednesday, Thanksgiving night's Ravens-Steelers game was moved to Sunday because of so many COVID issues among Ravens players.

"(Head athletic trainer) Tom Reed has done a tremendous job following that stuff," Kingsbury said. "He gets these morning emails around 3 a.m. and starts hashing through it and it appeared that there wasn't much contact tracing with DT. I think a lot of the timing had to do with it since we had the weekend off and that probably played in our favor. We feel good about where we're at right now."

VETERAN TIGHT END ADDED TO PRACTICE SQUAD

The Cardinals added tight end Seth DeValve to the practice squad Wednesday. The former fourth-round pick of the Browns has played in 53 career games with the Browns and Jaguars, making 60 catches for 736 yards and four touchdowns.

Images from practice at the Dignity Health Training Center, presented by Hyundai.

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