Cards rookie QB Murray 6-for-7 in ‘smooth’ debut

Aug 8, 2019

  • Josh WeinfussESPN Staff Writer

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    • Covered the Cardinals since 2012
    • Graduate of Indiana University
    • Member of Pro Football Writers of America

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Arizona Cardinals rookie quarterback Kyler Murray was nearly perfect in his first NFL action.

The first overall draft pick went 6-for-7 for 44 yards in 10 snaps in a 17-13 win over the Los Angeles Chargers on Thursday night at State Farm Stadium in his preseason debut. He didn’t return after the Cardinals’ first offensive drive, which resulted in a punt.

“I thought it was smooth. I was anxious to get out there, move around and throw it a little bit,” Murray said. “I really just tried to execute whatever Coach called, and I think we did that for the most part.”

Murray ran the entire drive out of the shotgun, using an array of quick passes, short passes and run-pass options to complement the Cardinals’ running game, spearheaded in the first drive by David Johnson.

“I think he made quick decisions,” coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “That’s what we’re looking for, operated well and took care of the football.”

Kingsbury added that he thought Murray “did a nice job tonight of putting it on the money.”

The Cardinals used a variety of formations during the drive, including lining up four wide receivers three times. They used three receivers five times and two receivers one time.

Murray showed a veteran’s poise in the pocket, which was clean for most of his time on the field. He escaped pressure on his final play of the drive, rolling to his right to buy time and completing a pass to rookie wide receiver KeeSean Johnson, but the play was negated because Johnson came back in from out of bounds to make the catch.

“A lot of it is just instinctual,” Murray said. “Leverage, a lot goes into it, but it’s all in the head. I’ve done it for my whole life, so I can’t really break it down to you right now, but I’d say it’s instinctual.”

Murray was sacked on another play, but he avoided contact by diving forward.

“I told you all along, he’s been little his whole life,” Kingsbury said. “So he knows how to find the soft spot and get down. That’s what you want.”

There were two plays on which Murray used a run-pass option. On one of them, he pulled back the handoff and quickly completed a pass to Trent Sherfield, who led the Cardinals with four catches for 44 yards and a touchdown.

The only thing Murray didn’t do Thursday night was run the ball.

Murray’s only drive began at the Cardinals’ 2-yard line — fittingly, he thought.

“I was happy the defense got a stop, but I was like, ‘Of course, this is the way it starts at the 2-yard-line,'” Murray said. “But at that time, I mean, my mindset was to go score. Unfortunately we didn’t.”

Murray was “itching for more” when he found out his day was over. He asked Kingsbury twice if the first-team offense was done. Both times Kingsbury told his star quarterback he wasn’t playing again.

That, to the defending Heisman Trophy winner, was hard to grasp.

“It was tough tonight,” Murray said. “Tonight was tough. I thought I was going to get at least two drives. I mean, it is what it is. He did say we might play a little bit more next week, so we’ll see however long that is. But I mean, I understand that we’re just getting ready for the regular season.”

Kingsbury projected that the starters would play “a little bit longer” next Thursday when the Cardinals host the Oakland Raiders in their second preseason game.

Murray wouldn’t say whether he was surprised by anything Thursday night, hiding his thoughts with a laugh. But he said the postgame meet-up at midfield was something different.

“It’s a little weird,” Murray said. “I know it’s preseason, so people aren’t really taking it to heart right now. But that first loss, I don’t know if I’ll want to go across and talk to people, but I guess it’s a common courtesy. I don’t know. It’s different. It’s different.”

With his first NFL action behind him, Murray felt Thursday’s game was more like a scrimmage than anything else, but he enjoyed it.

“I think it’s natural as rookies just to kind of have expectations — ‘How is it going to be?’ — overthink it and stuff like that,” Murray said. “But for me, I was just going out there, being myself like always, trusting my ability, trust what Coach calls and just try to go out there and execute what he calls.

“So, it was fun.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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