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With Kyler Murray Return, Receivers Are Ready

After QB's long layoff, passing game figures to be work in progress

Wide receiver Marquise "Hollywood" Brown runs a route with Kyler Murray at quarterback during Wednesday's practice.
Wide receiver Marquise "Hollywood" Brown runs a route with Kyler Murray at quarterback during Wednesday's practice.

One practice, a few weeks ago already, was all it took for Hollywood Brown to know that his best friend – who also happens to be his quarterback – was himself.

"Nobody's like him," the Cardinals receiver said of Kyler Murray.

The impending return of Murray – who is expected to speak to the media later this week – as starter figures to aid an offense that has struggled over the last six weeks.

But as the QB comes in without any preseason or even training camp snaps, his pass-catchers who have been in the lineup all season have to find an in-game chemistry with Murray, in an offense he has yet to play, quickly.

"Our message all year long, with Josh (Dobbs) and (Clayton) Tune and now Kyler has been, 'Be consistent,'" Brown said. "Let them see on film, in practice and in the game how we are playing, how fast we are moving, so it doesn't matter who is back there, we are consistent.

"For Kyler, being able to watch it, I feel like, 'OK, I haven't played with Mike (Wilson) but I know what Mike can do.' He has seen for weeks what each guy can do."

The passing game, which accounted for 17 net yards in Cleveland when factoring in yards lost to sacks, has been left wanting for a while.

Including the 2021 playoff game in Los Angeles, the Cardinals haven't surpassed 300 net yards passing in a game for 31 straight games. Murray did have two 300-yard passing performances in that time.

It isn't that a team must reach 300 passing yards to be successful, and indeed, if the Cardinals can elevate their run game again when James Conner plays (possibly this Sunday), balance is sought by offensive coordinator Drew Petzing.

"We as a receiving corps have to take an extremely gritty approach this week and take complete ownership," Wilson said. "We have to excel at our jobs to make his job easier because he has a lot going on."

Brown figures to have immediate improvement in his production, in large part because he and Murray have worked together for so long. Brown was off to a great start last season as WR1 and Murray at QB, before injuries derailed their seasons.

But Brown said he sees Wilson – who sat out in Cleveland with a shoulder injury -- having a big game against the Falcons.

"It's going to be pretty special to play with Kyler," the rookie said. "He's a very talented quarterback. We have to anticipate some growing pains because we haven't all been out there yet and knowing it's his first game back and he hasn't played in a long time."

Since Murray tore his ACL, the Cardinals have started five quarterbacks over the 13 games he has missed – Colt McCoy, Trace McSorley, David Blough, Dobbs, Tune – and hope to steady that now with Murray's return.

That's the kind of consistency the receivers are looking for, just like the kind they want to provide their QB.

"Something about Kyler, he can make plays when there isn't much going on," tight end Trey McBride said. "He can scramble, and if things go bad he can make something out of it. As pass catchers we have to be ready for things to happen."

Images of the Cardinals practicing at the Dignity Health Sports Complex before the Week 10 regular season matchup against the Atlanta Falcons