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Pro Bowl Marks Good Year For Kyler Murray, But He Wants More

Quarterback notes 'I still have a long way to go'

Quarterback Kyler Murray runs in a touchdown against the Eagles last weekend, his 11th rushing TD of the season.
Quarterback Kyler Murray runs in a touchdown against the Eagles last weekend, his 11th rushing TD of the season.

His Pro Bowl selection this season is only that, since Kyler Murray won't get to actually play in a game because of the reality of the coronavirus.

The Cardinals quarterback still knows it is meaningful, having "played" in the game growing up on the Madden video game franchise and dreaming to be in such a position one day.

But it doesn't mean Murray sees himself as having arrived at where he wants to be, either.

"I don't really look at it like that," Murray said. "Like I said, there's a lot of people that helped me get to this point. A lot of work that was done in the offseason, my whole life, truly, to get to this point. It's just a huge honor, I don't look at it as validation. I still have a long way to go, and that's my viewpoint."

Before the season, Murray has acknowledged he sets for himself each season personal goals he prefers to keep quiet, and he still wasn't getting into it Tuesday, saying only when asked if he had come close to reaching those goals, "No."

There are still areas in Murray's game that need improvement. His ball security, as seen on his lost fumble Sunday. Some decision-making, like on his interception. More maturity in general, which will come with age.

But while he isn't going to win MVP, and he may not reach the video-game numbers that Patrick Mahomes or Lamar Jackson did in their second seasons, Murray is still in position at season's end to throw for 4,000 yards, run for 840, account for 42 touchdowns and cut his sacks in half from his rookie year.

Most importantly, he's got the Cardinals with a chance to make the playoffs and, if they win Saturday against the 49ers, the first above-.500 season for the franchise since they made the NFC Championship game in 2015.

"Any expectation any of us can put on him will fall way short of what he has for himself," coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "That isn't anything I ever look at or worry about. You have a guy like Mahomes doing what he's doing, Lamar coming out in his second year, having all-time statistical years. (Expectations) come with the territory."

Had Murray played more in college, perhaps his development might be a little further along. One full season as a starter was all he got before the NFL. To this notion, Murray smiles – "I felt like I was in college forever, to be honest" – and notes that in his two years at Oklahoma running the scout team was still giving him reps against a pretty good defense.

"If you're taking those reps seriously," Murray said, "it's good enough."

Still, Murray figures to get better as he goes. The pressure of the Cardinals needing to win games to get to the postseason only can speed that development, whether it pays off in 2020 or the future. He's already produced enough highlights on the field that everyone has had a taste of what he could be all the time, and leaves some begging for it every play.

"When you get the guys who are obviously very gifted and above a lot of others – Kyler is right in that boat – that's why you have some games where people can see right away," 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. "That's why at times throughout this year and even at times throughout last year he has played at an MVP-level. The guy's in his second year and people put too much pressure on those guys right away when they do see the gifts that they have and how brilliant they can be.

"He's got so much skill and the ceiling is so high that I just hope he stays the same right now for us (Saturday). But he's doing a hell of a job."

It's a fair assessment. A Pro Bowl nod really wasn't needed to point it out.

"I can assure you," Kingsbury said, "any expectations out there for Kyler, he is expecting to surpass."

Images from the Cardinals' 33-26 victory over Philadelphia at State Farm Stadium in Week 15.

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