So with the beautiful fact that NFL Game Pass is free for a little while, and I have access to countless games this season. I’m going to spend my quarantine analyzing some of last season’s players of my choice, and getting an in-depth look at them on a game by game basis. As a sports consumer, I hate when athletes are tagged with inaccurate or simply stupid labels and narratives. I hate when you bring up an NFL player and some guy just yells out “he sucks” or “he wasn’t that good last season”, that statement is usually coming from a guy who was lucky enough to halfway pay attention to three games all season. If you’re taking that guy’s word for it, you’re not going to be worth a damn when it’s time to give your opinion on certain players and the state of all 32 NFL teams at the local tailgate.
I’m going to be analyzing each player on a game by game basis, think of this more as a trial run. I’m only analyzing the first six games to see how readers respond to it. The summaries will start out a bit longer in the beginning games, just so you can form a better identity of the player, but will get shorter and more concise as the season goes on, highlighting specific observations from each game.
This is something that I hope you all can enjoy considering the sports world has been put on hold by a global pandemic, and if you have any questions or comments about my analysis, feel free to reach out to me on Twitter at cbshaffer53.
The first player in my Reviewing the Tape series will be Kyler Murray of the Arizona Cardinals, I didn’t follow him a whole lot last season just because of the public trainwreck of a season that occurred for them last season. But from what I picked up here and there he definitely has potential down the road, here’s what I picked up in a nutshell from the first six games I watched throughout the season, hopefully, it provided you with an accurate look of him over the span of a few games.
Home vs. Detroit Lions, 27-27 OT, Murray: 29/54, 308 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT
In my opinion, the entire first three quarters of the game were garbage for the offense, and I put essentially 90% of that blame on the offensive line, Murray didn’t have a fighting chance in hell when he dropped back, because he was running for his life for most of the game due to a collapsed pocket. The unit eventually found their groove when it mattered in the fourth quarter, but they needed to get their shit together fast, you could tell Murray didn’t trust his pocket one bit and it led to him either having to quickly get out of the pocket or throw inaccurate balls.
Individually for Murray, three pass knockdowns in the first half, along with four total raise questions about his height in my eyes, I overlooked that before watching this game, but I can clearly see it might be a concern. He also had a few overthrows, and failed to capitalize for six points on a crucial special teams fumble recovery that set them up on the Lions 8-yard line, the latter of which is completely unacceptable.
Despite a terrible first half, and sitting in the fourth quarter with 9/26 passes completed, 71 yards and a pick, Murray stepped up when it mattered which is what I respect about him so much. A beautiful deep ball to Larry Fitzgerald provided a shock in the offense and Murray capitalized on it a few plays later with a fantastic 27-yard TD throw to David Johnson in the seam. Fitzgerald was a consistent safety blanket for Murray all game, as he reeled in eight catches, 113 yards and a score, proving why he’s still one of the most consistent veterans in the league.
Kyler Murray finally looked comfortable settling into the pocket completing some solid short and intermediate throws driving his team down the field before finding Fitzgerald on a short play action pass to score again, and then finding Christian Kirk on the two-point conversion to tie things up.
In overtime he found Fitzgerald again on a deep ball, but the drive ultimately amounted to a field goal with the Lions defense managing to keep Murray out of the pocket and the Cardinals settled for a field goal and eventual tie. In the fourth quarter and overtime alone, Murray completed 20/29 passes for 238 yards and two touchdowns.
In my mind, I consider this a solid debut for Kyler Murray, when things weren’t going his way he didn’t give up and managed to post a very strong showing in the second half leading his team back into the game, however his success entirely hinges on his offensive line figuring things out, and fast.
Away vs. Baltimore Ravens, 17-23, Murray: 25/40, 349 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT
Murray’s shaky debut is a thing of the past going into this game, he’s a rookie in the National Football League, what I saw last game was about expected and he finished on a decent note. During this game, there was a lot of miscommunication and lack of attention to detail on the offensive side as a whole from top to bottom, and it ultimately led to a fumbled snap that was almost lost early in the second offensive drive.
The offensive line definitely improved from last week’s dumpster fire, only allowing three sacks, but you can tell the trust still hasn’t been established between them and Murray. Fortunately Murray’s feet (which he hasn’t used a whole lot yet) and awareness can get him out of shitty situations.
Despite that solid play, many of his throws seemed rushed or off of his back foot and he just looked like he was trying to get the ball out of his hand as fast as possible. I can just tell most defenses Kyler Murray goes against are going to consistently send blitzes at him and make him think on his feet. Kliff Kingsbury doesn’t trust his offensive line yet, as he opted for a play action rollout on 3rd and 1 on the three-yard line in the first half, most coaches will let the running back pick those yards up if he trusts his offensive line.
Murray’s day with the receivers showed flashes of potential but in my mind still remained inconsistent. Many of his throws during this game were short outs, screens and slants which seem like they were intended to get him into a rhythm, which is well-intentioned but it didn’t result in too many explosive plays for the offense. It seems like Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk are his favorite targets so far, when they’re open and Murray has time, he was always getting them good throws, specifically finding Fitzgerald on a very impressive 54-yard strike early in the fourth quarter.
I’m worried about his accuracy, in the second quarter after a very impressive back shoulder throw to Damiere Byrd, he went 1-for-6 on his next few throws, most of them being overthrown. I’ll still give him the benefit of the doubt on those mistakes because he’s still developing chemistry with his receivers and it’s only the second game of the season, but for an offense that’s centered around creating space and getting the ball to your playmakers, they’re going to have to get on the same page rather quickly.
Once again Murray seemed to settle down in the second half, and get the ball moving down the field, finally resulting in the first offensive score of the day in the fourth quarter on a David Johnson touchdown run. Unfortunately, an undisciplined offense that involved a holding, false start and dropped pass by Byrd prevented the Cardinals from mounting a late game-winning drive. I definitely applaud Murray for taking more risks during this game, it once again wasn’t perfect but he’s definitely still searching for his identity and so it was good to get another look at him adjusting to the speed of the NFL, like everything in life, good things take time.
Home vs. Carolina Panthers, 20-38, 30-43, 173 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT
After a week that involved a tie, and a loss last week I came into this game expecting to see how a battle-tested Kyler Murray would respond to this Panthers defense. He’s the second quarterback in NFL history since Cam Newton to pass for 300 yards in his first two career games, which I think is a very good sign. He’s still figuring things out as a rookie, but the fact that going into this game he at least knew how to consistently get the ball moving on offense was an encouraging sign.
During the first few games Murray was using his feet to survive, but in this game there were multiple instances where he not only used his feet to escape, but to keep the chains moving and keep the defense guessing. It feels pretty familiar to some random guy in Baltimore who happened to win the NFL MVP award this past season, which hopefully bodes well for Murray.
In the air, Murray continues to favor the short pitch and catch passes that can get the offense moving down the field at a steady pace. This concept ultimately rewarded him as he found Larry Fitzgerald on a screen inside the five-yard line to get the Cardinals on the board first. I’m a big fan of the empty and one back sets that Kingsbury is putting Murray into, I feel like it really streamlines the reads for Murray and it’s starting to show, he’s getting the ball out quickly and efficiently to his guys. I can confidently say this was the most consistent first half of football that Murray has put together so far in his first three games.
Murray’s playmaking prowess was on full display in the second half and he capped off his opening drive with a very well-improvised throw to David Johnson for the go-ahead touchdown to open up the second half, I felt like I was watching the Heisman winner again. He would’ve continued to capitalize on his performance had Trent Sherfield not completely botched a surefire touchdown catch, after Murray had gotten Donte Jackson to bite on an underlying out route.
After settling for a field goal on that drive, Murray overthrew Fitzgerald on the seam which was intercepted by Jackson, not the best way to inspire momentum in your offense. Inconsistent o-line play fucked him over once again, allowing eight sacks and even then Murray was still managing to have a decent game, and then Murray found another wide open Jackson the drive after that, effectively sealing the game.
While Murray took notable strides forward in this game, he imploded when his team needed him the most, a crucial lesson he’ll certainly carry with him throughout the season. I have a feeling he’ll learn this lesson again before I even turn on this tape against the Seahawks.
Home vs. Seattle Seahawks, 10-27, Murray: 22/32, 241 yards, 1 INT
Boy I didn’t lie in that last sentence, it felt like Kyler Murray was at the Seahawks’ mercy on only the first drive, a few solid passes and efficient runs from David Johnson got them within field goal range only for them to walk away from it scoreless. Murray just looked helpless and that clearly showed on the next drive as Jadeveon Clowney intercepted Murray’s screen pass and took it to the house.
The Seahawks certainly kept Murray on his toes for the entire first half, Johnson was his only safety blanket during the entire half, and while the Cardinals could incrementally move the ball down the field at times, they’d always be abruptly stopped. It frankly felt like Murray was running for his life for the entire first half. However, I’ll applaud him for an impressive play in which the protection broke down, and he was able to keep his eyes downfield and find Fitzgerald for the first down, you can tell he’s trying not to resort to panic mode as soon as things go wrong.
This game essentially felt like David Johnson’s day, Murray eventually found the end zone with his feet with just over 10 minutes to go in the fourth, but it was clear from the jump that the Seahawks were the better football team.
Away vs. Cincinnati Bengals, 26-23, Murray: 20/32, 0 TD, 0 INT
The Bengals defense wasted no time getting after Kyler Murray early on, they did their best to limit him through the air, but ultimately Murray used those fast feet to make a play and scored on a seven yard play action run, that athleticism of his has always been a safety net.
I was very impressed with Murray’s willingness to stand in the pocket and deliver some throws under pressure in this game, usually, he’d resort right to escaping, but it was good to see him face a little bit of pressure, tough kid in my mind.
It’s frustrating to see the Cardinals offense crumble almost every time they crossed the 50-yard line, and while I’m not exclusively blaming that on Murray, he is the leader of this offense and has to go the extra mile to force the issue whether that’s with his arm or feet. I understand taking points where you can get them, but you can only get away with that for so long in the NFL.
Murray’s best moment of the season came on the game-winning drive. In a 2nd and 6 scenario on the 39-yard line in the fourth quarter with 49 seconds left, Murray managed to escape up the middle for a 24-yard gain, nothing weighing heavier on a defense than giving up a run like that with the game on the line.
That run set up the game winning field goal, giving Murray his first career win, a solid display of composure and leadership by Murray in a hard-fought first victory. What I loved about this game was his ability to improvise, if he couldn’t make a play through the air, he made it with his feet and kept things going for his offense.
Home vs. Atlanta Falcons, 34-33, Murray: 27/37, 340 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT
After the barrage of invading defenses and instability over the past few weeks, Kyler Murray deserved a day in which he could air the ball out without too many restrictions. He got the second quarter off to a booming start when he found Damiere Byrd for a 58-yard pass, which led to a quick Chase Edmonds receiving touchdown. Murray really got his guys going with the deep ball, and it was great to finally see him capitalize off of a big play with six points.
I’ve noticed the duo of David Johnson and Chase Edmonds have really increased their workload on the ground and in the air, I’m sure it’s been providing Murray with a real sense of security knowing that they can move the ball. The offensive line has clearly gotten much better over the weeks in the run game, which is very encouraging to see.
Early on in the 3rd quarter, Murray rolls to his right, and drops a perfect lob into Maxx Williams chest for his second throwing touchdown of the day. The offense is doing a great job of gashing the defense with the run, and then opening them up with play action passes.
Murray holds the NFL record for 20+ completions in each of his first six career games, a real testament to his accuracy, and how hard he’s worked to develop cohesion between himself and his receivers. With just over five minutes left in the fourth, Murray airs out a very risky, but very impressive 14-yard touchdown pass to Ol’Reliable David Johnson for his third touchdown pass of the day.
Murray then proceeded to use those fast feet to get a first down and close out the game for good, it was an intense battle but Murray once again proved why he belongs.