Christian Kirk played with quarterback Kyler Murray at Texas A&M in 2015, and he learned then what his fellow wideouts are learning now.
“The thing with Kyler you have to get used to is just keeping the play alive,” Kirk said. “He’s going to make that first guy miss.”
It’s been a long time since the Cardinals had a quarterback who could regularly extend plays – Josh McCown was the most recent, 14 years ago -- and they’ve never had one with the mobility of Murray.
His unique skillset means a mentality shift for the other 10 players on the field. The receivers will still run their routes, but if the ball hasn’t been thrown when they finish, it doesn’t mean it is time to return to the huddle.
“The play is never dead,” wide receiver Kevin White said. “If the initial route isn’t open, you need to find a way to get open.”
Similarly, the offensive linemen can’t relax after three seconds, because Murray may be pulling a Houdini act behind them and disappearing from pass rushers.
“It reinforces the things we need to do,” guard Justin Pugh said. “You need to keep blocking through the whistle. If you don’t hear the whistle, keep blocking. Our job remains the same.”
Right tackle Marcus Gilbert believes Murray’s dual threat skillset will actually make life easier on the blockers.
“He has a special talent to change the whole defensive scheme up,” Gilbert said. “I think (defensive linemen) have to be more wary than we are as offensive linemen, because he can escape at any time. The guys aren’t rushing the passer as hard because the ball can be coming out quick, or if you run past him, he will take the ball and escape.”
The Cardinals have faced Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson twice a year since 2012, and they have been on the wrong end of many scramble-drill escapades during his career. The most famous of which may have come in 2017, when he evaded Chandler Jones and Tyrann Mathieu in the backfield and eventually found Doug Baldwin for a 54-yard gain.
The belief is that Murray will deliver the same type of headaches on broken plays.
“Us receivers, we have to make sure we’re separating and getting open for him so we can extend that play,” Kirk said. “Usually that ends up with big plays down the field. He does a great job of that, giving us opportunities, and it’s on us to create that separation.”
While broken play excellence is nice, Murray’s success will likely hinge on his ability to beat teams from the pocket. The Cardinals feel like they have someone similar to Wilson – a pocket passer who is a menace when improvising.
“It’s my first go at it with a mobile quarterback, but have you seen him thrown the ball?” Pugh said. “I think he’s going to stay back there and sling that thing, too. He can do a lot of different things, and we’re looking forward to that.”
Images from the third OTA of the 2019 offseason