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Checking In With Kyler Murray, And Friday Before The Texans

There was a time when NFL quarterbacks called their own plays. Terry Bradshaw, Roger Staubach, Kenny Stabler, etc., etc., the pantheon of 1970s greats.

It made sense – they were on the field, they could get the feel of the game. Besides, offenses in that time were more simple. Go back and watch games from that era and it felt like every run was between the tackles unless it was a sweep, and the passes all went at least 15 yards downfield.

Offenses are much more complicated now, and more importantly, coaches aren't giving up the right to call the plays. It's been that way for decades of course, but it was hard not to think about the QB playcallers of yore when Kyler Murray was talking about checking out of plays more often.

Murray did it a few times in Cleveland, joking that perhaps with Kliff Kingsbury not around he had a little more "leeway" to make his own choices – like the check into the Chase Edmonds draw play that gained 40 yards on the first play. But even when Kingsbury is around, Murray's evolution to make changes on the fly will prove to be an important step for this offense.

"I think it goes back to the maturation process, seeing a lot of defenses," Murray said. "I don't think there's much that I haven't seen in three years. I've seen a lot. Being able to process it all now, understanding what plays in our offense that beat whatever the defense is in."

The uptick in audibles works on two levels. One, it's clear Murray has become a different quarterback than the kid who stepped into the facility in 2019. That was expected, but it is still important to make the actual progress – not every quarterback does (and that's when you get into trouble.)

On a micro-level, it also has helped this offense become a devastating unit. Hence, 6-0.

"As a quarterback, you want all the control," Murray said. "It's a horrible feeling being back there and they're in a defense and you know the play is not going to work, but you don't know what to get to. So, the fact that now I do know what I can check and the guys all understand he might get to this or this, it's a great feeling. It just gets you out of trouble."

-- Tight end Zach Ertz will play his first game, all the more important with Darrell Daniels – who became de facto TE1 before the Ertz trade after Maxx Williams injury. What Ertz will do is TBA. Joseph said Ertz is "ready to go" when it comes to knowing the assignments and the playbook. How Ertz fits in immediately will be fascinating to watch.

-- Williams, by the way, apparently had surgery on his knee Thursday, according to a tweet by running back Chase Edmonds.

-- An interesting stat, and one that speaks to the Cardinals playing from ahead this season: The Cardinals lead the NFL in most first-half points scored with 112, and they also lead the NFL in fewest second-half points allowed with 40.

-- Joseph said the Cardinals' defensive line is in a much better place this week, and that's even with Corey Peters and Zach Allen still sidelined. It was inevitable given that Allen was lost late Friday and then Peters was pulled mere hours before kickoff.

But now Jonathan Ledbetter has played 10 snaps so Joseph knows what he can provide. Josh Mauro was brought back to the practice squad and he knows the system – it wouldn't be a surprise to see him play right away, since the Cards know he knows what he's doing. Then there is Jordan Phillips, who finally is back in the fold.

-- Speaking of Phillips, Joseph said the veteran was "surprisingly really good in the game." That's not a shot at Phillips as much as incredulity. Phillips played 21 snaps, many more than expected once Peters was out. And as Phillips noted, he hadn't played contact football since getting hurt against the Giants on Dec. 13 on 2020.

-- If Chandler Jones is to play Sunday, he has to be activated off the Covid list by Saturday. We'll see if that happens, and if the Cards think he can play without practicing for two weeks.

-- A bobblehead has been created replicating Kyler Murray’s “zen” TD celebration – which brought a smile to Murray's face. He was asked if he thought his pose could blow up like "Tebowing" did once upon a time.

"I see people posing and stuff like that on Instagram and stuff," Murray said. "(But) 'Tebowing' was a phenomenon. I don't know about mine."

-- This short week turnaround coming up will be in the spotlight – if both the Cards and Packers win Sunday, it'll be 7-0 versus 6-1 in the best "Thursday Night Football" game I can remember.

-- But you can't look ahead, right? Like I've said before, I think J.J. Watt and DeAndre Hopkins, even if they aren't burning to beat their former team, still won't allow any letdown. It'll be too important to them, bad blood or not. I've said all along I expect Hopkins to have his best game statistically of the season. Maybe he won't – the Cards are so good at using everyone – but it just feels like the right time. And maybe Watt finds his way back to Davis Mills once or twice.

-- The Cardinals' best start in franchise history was 7-0 – in 1974. They have a chance to match against the Texans, and are heavily favored to do so. It's already been quite a ride.

See you Sunday.

WR DeAndre Hopkins is congratulated by JJ Watt after a touchdown at home against the 49ers in 2021
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