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Kyler Murray Struggling Outside The Pocket

QB Kyler Murray didn't have much success scrambling against the Steelers.
QB Kyler Murray didn't have much success scrambling against the Steelers.

Kyler Murray regularly bolted from the pocket on Sunday against the Steelers, but the scrambling was unproductive.

The Cardinals' rookie quarterback took some sacks, threw a pair of interceptions – to be fair, one came on a late-game desperation heave – and failed to connect enough with his receivers.

It's been a year-long issue for the Cardinals. Murray is one of the fastest quarterbacks in the NFL, and fellow dual threats like Russell Wilson, Lamar Jackson, Dak Prescott and Patrick Mahomes have all excelled outside the pocket.

However, Murray has a non-opponent-adjusted QBR of only 19.8 outside the pocket this season, which is tied for sixth-worst in the NFL, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

Kliff Kingsbury was asked about the issue on Monday, and the Cardinals coach put much of the onus on the pass-catchers for failing to get open.

"We just all have to get on the same page," Kingsbury said. "That's the second phase of football. You see it all around the league more and more with these athletic quarterbacks; it's not over. That second phase is hard to cover for a defense, and you have to take pride in that part."

Wide receiver Pharoh Cooper said there are general rules when a pass play goes off script, but that it often comes down to instincts.

"The most important thing about scramble drills is creating a good relationship on the field – coming back to the quarterback, coming back to the ball and spacing out with the other receivers," Cooper said. "If you've got a receiver close, don't try to get too close to him. Just try to separate the field, and make it an environment where Kyler feels comfortable throwing the ball in an open zone, an open spot."

Murray is a clear outlier in out-of-pocket QBR efficiency, aligned closer to stationary quarterbacks like Tom Brady, Philip Rivers and Drew Brees than his mobile brethren.

There is reason for optimism: Murray has an in-pocket QBR of 62.4 this season, which is ninth-best in the NFL, and according to Josh Hermsmeyer of FiveThirtyEight.com, numbers inside the pocket are more predictive than those outside the pocket.

If Murray can retain his ability to excel in structure and improve outside it, the Cardinals' offense could make strides.

"We practice the scramble drill, but we have to make it work during the games," Kingsbury said. "I don't think we've really mastered that."

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