What to expect from the Cardinals' offense and Kyler Murray in 2023

2K4HC9X Charlotte, NC, USA. 2nd Oct, 2022. Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) drops to throw against the Carolina Panthers during the first quarter of the NFL matchup at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC. (Scott Kinser/Cal Sport Media). Credit: csm/Alamy Live News

The Arizona Cardinals were applauded by most when they decided to draft Kyler Murray with the No. 1 overall pick of the 2019 NFL Draft just a year after selecting quarterback Josh Rosen with the 10th overall selection. An unheard-of decision to so quickly move on from another high-profile pick, it was ultimately the correct move. Rosen has since bounced around the league on practice squads and in backup roles.

In 2020 and 2021, Murray looked the part, ranking as a top-10 quarterback with 82.8 and 82.9 overall grades, respectively. 2020 saw Murray show off the rushing prowess we expected coming out of college, and he earned an 86.5 rushing grade while forcing 17 missed tackles, averaging more than six yards per carry and racking up 11 touchdowns.

In 2021, Murray took a big jump in big-time throws with 43, reduced his turnover-worthy play rate to 2.3%, posted the fifth-highest passing grade at 86.7 and earned a trip to the playoffs. His 8% big-time throw rate was even higher than what we saw from his final season at Oklahoma (7.3%).

We knew Murray to be a playmaker in college. And he was quickly ticking the boxes of a modern-day quarterback in the NFL. His rushing efficiency did decline, but he more than made up for it with his arm.

2022 was a completely different story.

What happened in 2022?

A disappointing ending to 2021 carried over, and we saw the rookie version of Murray in 2022, also plagued by injuries. His 67.1 overall grade was near his rookie number of 64.2, but if there was a sign of hope, the underlying metrics were still much better in 2022 than in 2019.

Stable Metrics 2019 2022
Clean Pocket 65.9 82.7
Standard Dropback 61.3 70.6
Early Down 57.6 71.4
No Play Action 54.5 56.7
At/Beyond Sticks 71.0 69.2
Avoid Negative % 16.1% 13.9%

Murray as a rookie struggled in every stable metric category, and his clean pocket grade was the worst of any quarterback. While his 2022 campaign also wasn’t up to par either, he did improve significantly in many stable metrics. So why was his overall grade almost as bad as that of his rookie season? The unstable metrics.

Unstable Grades 2019 2022
Under Pressure 44.2 23.9
Outside Pocket 48.6 27.1
Money Downs 58.1 42.1
Play Action 68.3 77.2
Positively Graded Throw % 16.9% 17.2%

In 2022, Murray was the second-worst quarterback under pressure and outside of the pocket while ranking fourth worst on money downs (third and fourth downs) and positively graded throw rate. Granted, he wasn’t good as a rookie. But he wasn’t bottom of the barrel in almost every category.

What is the takeaway from these numbers? 2022 was as bad as it could get for Murray from an unstable grading standpoint, but we should expect a regression toward the mean — in addition to a boost from a new scheme.

Unimaginative Play Calling to a Modern Style Offense

In four NFL seasons for Murray, the system from which he’s operated has been unimaginative, to say the least. 11 personnel (1 HB, 1 TE, 3 WR) is the norm in the NFL, and the Cardinals were no different in that regard, running it 49.6% of the time since former head coach Kliff Kingsbury became head coach. But where they differed from the rest of the NFL was 10 personnel (1 HB, 0 TE, 4 WR) usage, employing it almost 19% of the time. This isn’t a bad thing; it presents an opportunity to be a trendsetter if the system and philosophy present problems for the rest of the NFL. The league average of 1.8% 10 personnel usage is far below what the Cardinals ran.

Over the past four seasons, the Cardinals ranked 11th out of 17 teams with at least 25 attempts from 10 personnel in expected points added per pass. This doesn’t bode well for bringing a different system to the NFL. One issue Kingsbury had over the years was not moving weapons around to create ideal matchups. DeAndre Hopkins lined up almost exclusively at the outside left wide receiver spot, and Arizona since 2019 has utilized motion the least of any team in the NFL.

To stress a defense, moving your best offensive weapon to different spots in the formation while confusing the opposition with motion is vital. Kingsbury did neither. The teams that used motion the most during this timeframe? Kansas City and San Francisco. These two offenses have been the best in the NFL. Taking a page out of Andy Reid and Kyle Shanahan’s books would be wise for any offensive play caller.

The Cardinals hired a former defensive coordinator in Jonathan Gannon as their head coach this offseason, which bucks the trend for NFL teams trying to innovate on offense. Gannon hired Drew Petzing as offensive coordinator and Drew Terrell as pass game coordinator. A year ago, Petzing was the quarterbacks coach for the Cleveland Browns, and Jacoby Brissett had a career year there until he was replaced by Deshaun Watson coming back from suspension. Terrell spent the previous three seasons coaching wide receivers for the Washington Commanders, where he oversaw Terry McLaurin‘s development.

What we’ll see from a schematic standpoint in 2023 could be similar to what Cleveland ran the previous three years: under center, wide-zone play action and rollouts. This will utilize Murray’s athletic ability and speed on the move while creating easy throwing lanes and open targets. Murray will still operate out of the shotgun, something we saw Kingsbury use almost 91% of the time, but putting him under center will alleviate stress on the offensive line as well as Murray.

The Browns have utilized a shift or a motion on a play 56.7% of the time over the past three years, the 11th-highest rate in the NFL. Expect that to be the norm in Arizona after the team did so at a league-low 37% clip under Kingsbury. In 2022, Amari Cooper saw a near-even split between the left and right wide receiver positions while mixing in at slot receiver. Marquise Brown can be a moveable chess piece to stress defenses and create mismatches.

What will 2023 bring for Kyler Murray?

Murray is expected to miss extensive time in 2023 after tearing his ACL late in 2022. But expect him to improve when he does return. He’ll have to adjust to a new offensive scheme and system, but it’s one that has proven time and time again to boost efficiency and production out of a signal-caller. There will be some growing pains as he learns to operate under center at a significantly higher rate than ever before, but it’ll ultimately lead to big plays in the air and on the ground.

He’s just one season removed from being one of the highest-graded quarterbacks in the NFL. The arm talent and athleticism are still there for Murray, and he’ll now get a scheme to make things easier for the whole team.


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