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Kyler Murray And The Hope For Longevity

Fleet-footed signal-caller was least knocked down quarterback in NFL last season

QB Kyler Murray has made a habit of eluding defenders in his first two seasons with the Cardinals.
QB Kyler Murray has made a habit of eluding defenders in his first two seasons with the Cardinals.

At the NFL Scouting combine in 2019, I headed over to Bruce Arians' press conference dais with a question at the ready.

Kyler Murray was getting a lot of buzz about potentially going No. 1 overall, and I wanted to know if the Cardinals' former coach thought the dual-threat quarterback was an injury risk waiting to happen.

In the past, Arians had espoused his preference for pocket passers because they weren’t put in harm’s way as often, but his answer about Murray surprised me.

"I don't think you can hit something you can't catch," Arians said.

In the two years since then, Arians' proclamation has held pretty true.

Murray has started all 32 games over the past two years, and according to Football Outsiders, he was knocked down a league-low 8.5% of the time on pass attempts in 2020. In comparison, the Eagles' Carson Wentz was knocked down on 23% of the time on his throws.

Some of the low total is a credit to coach Kliff Kingsbury's quick passing game philosophy, but there is no question that Murray's mobility has helped him avoid trouble more often than it has allowed defenders to take big shots.

The Football Outsiders calculation did not include scrambles past the line of scrimmage or pure run plays, and those are the areas Arians thinks can be detrimental to the long-term health of a quarterback. However, Murray has shown a penchant for avoiding major contact on the vast majority of his scampers.

There have been times with the Cardinals when Murray has been nicked up, most notably in the 2020 regular season finale against the Rams, where his absence may have cost the Cardinals a playoff berth.

Even so, the lack of hits taken is a major positive for his long-term prospects, as the combination of Kingsbury's scheme and Murray's awareness have helped shelve the concern that he has a higher-than-normal injury risk for the position.

The top images of QB Kyler Murray in 2020