The possibility of Kyler Murray playing Sunday against the Panthers is trending in the right direction.
The quarterback was on the field for the first time since suffering an ankle injury Week 8 against Green Bay. It was an encouraging sign for the hope Murray returns Sunday after missing last week's victory at San Francisco.
Murray, however, remains a game-day decision to play.
"He's progressing," coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "It's good to have him back out there, and we'll see how he feels (Saturday) and Sunday and go from there."
Kingsbury said Murray hasn't been the most fun to be around with the quarterback's unhappiness for being held off the field, but the team wants to make sure Murray is healthy enough to perform at the level that's made him an MVP candidate this season.
It's why the Cardinals have had internal discussions about holding Murray out the next two games with a bye week looming. But Kingsbury said if Murray checks off the necessary boxes on Sunday, the coaches will put him out there.
"Just that he can move and protect himself," Kingsbury said. "He doesn't have to be 100 percent, but he's got to be able to move enough where he can protect himself and do what he does – escape, extend plays – things of that nature."
Another factor comes from playing in a league where victories are not guaranteed. The Cardinals are favored against the Panthers but in the past two weeks across the league, elite teams have lost to teams they should have beat. Case in point: Jacksonville upset Buffalo last week, and Miami upset Baltimore on Thursday night.
The Cardinals have faith in backup quarterback Colt McCoy, especially after last week's impressive performance.
"This league is week-to-week," Kingsbury said. "You got to try and win every game you have an opportunity to win. So, if he is ready to go; he'll play."
CONNER AS PASS-CATCHER
James Conner has been an excellent addition for the Cardinals, leading the NFL in total touchdown touchdowns and tied first for the most rushing TDs.
But his receiver skillset is what has amazed Kingsbury the most since his offseason arrival.
"Pleased would be an understatement," Kingsbury said. "When we got him here, I didn't think he had that type of ability. He can run a route like a receiver, has great hands, and is physical. He's been far and above what I expected from him in that department."
Conner was a vital piece in the passing offense last week, piling up 77 yards on five catches in the victory at San Francisco. He also caught a 45-yard screen pass for a touchdown, the longest of his career.
Conner enjoys getting the ball at the goal-line and reaching the end zone for touchdowns, but not as much as making impressive plays from the backfield. Conner will likely get more of those opportunities with running back Chase Edmonds out with an ankle injury.
"I'm going to try and do that a little more often," Conner said. " I trust the offensive line; two yards in, I know we good from there. But I want to open up and make some more highlight plays."
HOPKINS, MOORE QUESTIONABLE FOR SUNDAY; PUGH OUT
The Cardinals have ruled out Edmonds (ankle), guard Justin Pugh (calf), running back Jonathan Ward (concussion), and safety James Wiggins (knee) for Sunday.
Both wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (hamstring) and offensive lineman Max Garcia (Achilles) are listed as questionable despite not practicing all week. Safety Budda Baker (concussion), wide receiver Rondale Moore (concussion), defensive lineman Jordan Phillips (groin) are also questionable.
For the Panthers, cornerbacks Stanley Thomas-Oliver (toe) and Rashaan Melvin (hand) are out. Linebacker Frankie Luvu (knee) and defensive end Brian Burns (foot) are questionable.