In this series of articles, our resident tape wizard Greg Cosell will take an in-depth look at some of the more interesting fantasy players for the 2020 NFL season. It’s a peek behind the curtain of the film room, as these are Greg’s raw, unfiltered notes he takes as he watches a player.
Kyler Murray is part of the new breed of NFL QB. Even 10 years ago, a player with his height (or lack thereof) would struggle to even get a shot at QB in the NFL, despite his elite throwing talent. In the changing NFL, with extensive shotgun concepts and the QB run game being a very important part of breaking down defenses, Murray was the #1 overall pick.
His talent jumps off the film, but if Murray is going to have the second-year success players like Carson Wentz, Patrick Mahomes, and Lamar Jackson have had the last three seasons, there is a lot he needs to work on.
- At Ravens, vs. Falcons, at Saints, at Buccaneers, at Steelers, vs. Browns, divisional matchups vs. Seahawks, 49ers, and Rams
- Murray is an incredibly twitchy athlete with explosive feet. In the pocket, that allows him to reset and deliver the ball on balance.
- Murray has a whip-like explosive delivery that generates excellent velocity on intermediate throws. A throw to WR Christian Kirk for 26 yards against the Ravens is a good example — it was a stick throw into a tight zone window in the middle of the field.
- Murray showed a tendency to break down prematurely in the pocket (was it his lack of size, and therefore inability to see?) and at times become frenetic in his movement. The result was he left some throws on the field.
- Murray had the outstanding second reaction ability to both make throws on the move and scramble for important yardage. His throw to Larry Fitzgerald for 18 yards against the Falcons showed Murray’s ability to avoid the pressure, generate second-reaction playmaking, and his natural arm strength.
- The flip side of Murray’s premature pocket breakdowns was that he made some outstanding second-reaction plays both throwing and running – there is no question Murray can make special plays outside of structure.
- Through the early part of the season, Murray was often a beat slow eliminating and isolating – that higher level of decision-making can come with experience.
- Murray played a loose and, at times, undisciplined game. His feet were consistently unsettled and frenetic. The tape showed too many snaps on which he did not see the field well.
- Murray’s field vision, and with that his ability to eliminate what’s not there and isolate where to go with the ball, must improve in his second season.
- There were too many throws on which Murray was a beat or more late (even some completions). At times, being a beat late is the result of pure progression pass games, because the quarterback is not reading coverage and therefore is waiting to see if routes are open - a 16-yard completion to Christian Kirk against the Saints is a good example of a throw being a beat late.
- Murray was consistently late on timing throws outside the numbers — he showed a tendency to deliver after the receiver made his break.
- What Murray also must improve is his ball placement. He has a strong arm that can generate outstanding velocity, but he must become more precise with ball location on routine NFL throws.
- Overall Murray missed too many throws that were there, It showed up in every game I evaluated.
- Murray’s lack of size was definitely a factor. He consistently struggled in collapsing pockets, with one result being that he fell away from far too many throws, leading to too many inaccurate throws.
- What you did not see much of with Murray was patience in the pocket to make late-in-the-down throws. It could be a function of his size and inability to see as the bodies got closer – a limitation to his game.
- Murray flashed the ability to make outstanding throws with both velocity and accuracy, plus he made a few outstanding fade throws dropping it in the bucket – He has tools and traits to develop but he needs more refinement and discipline in his game.
- One throw Murray makes well is the seam ball. It is a firm-touch throw that demands some velocity, but it is not a drive-power throw.
- To be effective and consistent as a pocket passer, Murray needs to be solidly protected and secure in the pocket, with room to deliver comfortably so he can step into his throws.
- What stood out the more games I watched of Murray was there was no rhythm to the Cards’ passing game. Murray made some outstanding individual plays, but he missed far too many layups.
- What Murray’s rookie season showed was a QB with the arm talent to make quality throws from the pocket and the second-reaction ability to make special plays outside of structure, but was sorely lacking in the details and nuances of the position that produce consistent play.
- The bottom line with Murray is that he may be a good fantasy prospect because of his pass and run statistics and talent, but he has a long way to go to become a quality NFL QB.
Cardinals Scheme Highlights
Through the first part of the season, the Cards featured significant snaps out of 10 (1 RB, 0 TE) and 01 (0 RB, 1 TE) personnel. These 4-WR packages were a foundational part of coach Kliff Kingsbury’s offense (that was a Mike Leach innovation in the evolution of the Air Raid offense).
The Cards passing game was high-percentage shotgun with the formation spreading the field horizontally in 3x1 and 2x2 sets. There were some snaps of pistol and some snaps with Murray under center.
A 54-yard big gain for Larry Fitzgerald against the Ravens came on a vertical route concept — double post with a backside crosser. Fitzgerald ran the inside post from the slot to twins. The route concept beat the Ravens’ Cover 3.
Two routes/route concepts that are foundational to the Air Raid are mesh and Y-cross. Y-cross was almost always the intermediate route in a flood (three-level stretch) concept that everybody now runs in the NFL. It is the same concept as Y-sail/Y-out, except the intermediate route in the flood comes from the opposite side of the formation.
Flood was a foundational concept in the Cards passing game, and it has always been a significant part of the Air Raid offense. The Cards got to flood in multiple ways, from different personnel and formation looks.
One thing that stood out was the Cards had a multiple screen game with both backs and WRs. It was a foundational part of the passing game.
Another route concept you see from the Cards that has its origins in the Air Raid offense is “All-Curl.” It is predominantly run from 2x2 sets.
As the season progressed, the Cards featured more snaps of 11 personnel and even snaps of 12 personnel – Kingsbury was learning the NFL game and what works and what does not work.
My sense watching the tape was Kingsbury also developed a better understanding of NFL pass protection throughout the year, and that impacted his personnel and formations.
Murray’s 58-yard completion to WR Damiere Byrd against the Falcons featured Oklahoma gap scheme run action with a guard and tackle pull and Murray on designed boot away from the pull. Byrd ran a backside deep post with an excellent throw by Murray – a well-designed misdirection vertical pass game concept.
Shallow crossers and backside digs off front reads were foundation routes in Kingsbury’s Air Raid offense.
The Cards OL struggled in one-on-one pass protection, that’s a problem since a staple of the Air Raid is one-on-one pass blocking. That too often forced Murray into second-reaction improvisation – right tackle was a position that struggled all season for the Cardinals.
The Cards pass game featured a multiple screen game, a lot of quick throws, and throw-it-up, sideline, one-on-one contested throws. It’s tough to consistently attack and beat good NFL defenses with that formula.
The Cards played many fewer snaps of 10 and 01 personnel as the season progressed, with far more snaps of 11 personnel. The Cards also featured snaps of 20 personnel with Kenyan Drake and a second back.
My sense is Drake will be a featured part of the Cards passing game in 2020, given their focus on the screen game. Drake has explosive open field traits.
Murray made an outstanding pocket throw on Andy Isabella’s 88-yard TD in the first game against the 49ers. It was a firm touch throw with precise ball placement.
The Cards featured some RPO concepts with slant routes away from the run action. As the season progressed, the Cards ran much more slant-arrow to the boundary: that’s a basic two-man NFL concept that’s an easy read for the QB.
What will the Cards offense look like from a personnel standpoint in 2020? Kingsbury clearly moved to more 12 and 20 personnel as the 2019 season progressed – we do not know the answer to that, but pass protection must be the number one priority.