Kliff Kingsbury said Kyler Murray was in "survival mode" at times last season as a young quarterback navigating dangerous NFL waters.
Which begs the question: If Murray pulled an Offensive Rookie of the Year campaign out of simply surviving, what will it look like when he's thriving?
The answer could come soon, as Murray has gained high marks for his mental development during a training camp that winds down this week. Even without offseason work, Kingsbury said his young pupil has become more decisive and shown a better feel for the offensive scheme with a year under his belt.
"There was a lot on his plate (in 2019) and it was moving really fast," Kingsbury said. "There was nowhere to go but to go out on the field and do his best. Just seeing his level of – I wouldn't say mastery of the offense – but understanding this year compared to last, it's night and day.
"We've still got to go out there and execute at a high level versus teams on Sunday, but I'm very proud of the progress he's made and the work he's put in to get to this point. I know he's excited to go out there and see the steps he's made."
Murray has spoken of "kind of winging it" as a rookie, admitting that there were disguised coverages that kept him off-balance. After 16 games of on-the-job training, he believes the mind is catching up to the elite physical ability.
"There's not much that I did not see last season," Murray said. "I would hope this year I'm able to recognize defenses beforehand, rather than post-snap. They're going to disguise stuff, but I think I am doing a better job recognizing that stuff pre- and post-snap."
It's an exciting possibility for a Cardinals offense that already underwent significant improvement in 2019, leading to Murray's aforementioned honors.
Guard J.R. Sweezy faces away from his quarterback during passing plays but has seen plenty to speak confidently about his trajectory.
"He was great last year," Sweezy said. "This year he's going to be elite."
The Cardinals integrated a bunch of new pieces on offense in 2019, most notably Kingsbury and Murray, who were both in their first years with the Cardinals. The vast majority of key pieces are back, and additions like wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and right tackle Kelvin Beachum are veterans with plenty of NFL experience.
Unsurprisingly, the offensive operation has had fewer hiccups this time around.
"So far it's been a much better camp than it was last year, as far as communication, execution, preparation, all of it," Murray said. "All of it's been better, and I think it's showing on the field."
Kingsbury has traditionally done a lot of quick-hit passes within his offense, and Murray doesn't have to think much on those. But there are always going to be longer dropbacks, exotic blitzes and late-shifting coverages he must handle.
Kingsbury is confident Murray is better-equipped to deal with the mental rigors in his second season.
"It's just the natural progression that you would hope for," Kingsbury said. "When you put in hard work, and when you go through a season and you take every snap as the guy, you would hope you'd take that step. … We're by no stretch a finished product, but you definitely see him having a better understanding of where to go with the ball, and getting it out of his hand quicker."