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Sean Kugler Wants To Keep Kyler Murray Cleaner In 2020

Offensive line has more complicated job protecting mobile quarterback

QB Kyler Murray was sacked 48 times in 2019, which was tied for the most in the NFL.
QB Kyler Murray was sacked 48 times in 2019, which was tied for the most in the NFL.

The Cardinals set a franchise-record by eclipsing five yards per carry a season ago, but in true coaching fashion, Sean Kugler is on the lookout for ways to improve.

The team's offensive line coach said on the Big Red Rage that a chief goal in 2020 is to keep Kyler Murray cleaner, after the rookie quarterback was sacked a league-high-tying 48 times last season.

While Pro Football Focus placed the blame on Murray for 23 of them, Kugler believes the onus is on his group to keep blocking even when a play seems over.

"With a quarterback like Kyler, you can't have any clocks in your head," Kugler said. "He's such a dynamic player, and he's always looking to extend plays and make plays down the field. He's such a good scrambler that that clock can't go off in your head. Once we take that next step to realize there's no clocks – we're working until we see the ball thrown, not when we think the ball should be thrown – I think we'll make a lot more improvement."

Kugler noted that the Cardinals did fare better in pass protection as the year went on. Murray was sacked 20 times in the first four games and 28 in the final 12.

"That's about learning about each other," Kugler said.

A big step toward continuity came earlier this week when left tackle D.J. Humphries inked a three-year contract extension. Humphries only gave up two sacks in 2019 and will be counted on to lock down Murray's blindside for the foreseeable future.

Kugler was impressed to see Humphries' maturation last season, their first together.

"Early in the year, I had a lot of heart-to-heart talks with D.J.," Kugler said. "Just saw him progressively getting it as it went on. I think about a quarter of the way through the season, it really clicked. And then you saw confidence building with him. His work ethic improved, and his meeting room habits improved, and his weight room habits improved. He's kind of changed his lifestyle. You saw him. He's lean; he's in shape. He's doing the right things with his body."

Kugler is confident Humphries' big payday won't result in a laissez-faire attitude moving forward.

"I think he's going to take off," Kugler said. "He's a loyal cat. I don't think it's going to be, 'I've got money in my pocket. I'm going to be a fat cat.' I think he's going to be a guy like, 'I finally got people that believe in me and trust me, and now I'm going to go prove to these guys that they made the right decision.'"