NFL Films/ESPN legend — and one of the best talent evaluators in the business — Greg Cosell has gone through a metric ton of 2020 tape to provide insights on some interesting players headed into the 2021 NFL season. Here, he brings you his raw notes and observations from those tape sessions.
It’s a chance to get inside the mind of one of the greats of the industry.
Today, let’s take a look at the 2019 No. 1 overall pick Kyler Murray as he heads into his third season with a more dynamic receiving corps.
KYLER MURRAY – FIRST-DOWN EXPLOSIVE PLAYS (15+ YARDS)/RED ZONE (91 PLAYS)
What consistently stood out watching Murray was he developed the ability to throw effectively off-balance and falling away, which is a function of his lack of height (5’10”).
A staple of the Cards’ passing game was run action out of shotgun on first down. It consistently had an impact on linebackers and on underneath defenders in zone coverage, which opened voids at the intermediate levels.
DeAndre Hopkins almost always lined up on the left side of the formation, including at boundary X.
A combination of shotgun-run action and intermediate/vertical route concepts created voids in zone coverage and defined reads and throws for Murray.
A higher percentage of the explosive pass plays on first down came against zone coverage. Kliff Kingsbury did an excellent job attacking zone coverage with his route concepts and combinations.
You must defend first-down shotgun play action against the Cards. They made a lot of explosive plays in the passing game off of intermediate and vertical route concepts versus zone coverage. Deep crossers were a staple.
The higher percentage of explosive pass plays on first down came out of 11 and 12 personnel, with 11 personnel being the most frequent. Not many explosive plays came out of 10 personnel.
Cards featured a multiple run game with Murray in the red zone. They ran misdirection concepts as part of a designed run game that played to Murray’s strengths.
Murray’s designed run game was a significant part of the Cards’ red-zone offense, and they featured it out of multiple personnel groupings and formations. Zone-read concepts were featured and Murray consistently made the unblocked third-level defender miss in space.
Christian Kirk saw significant snaps as the boundary X to the right side of the formation in 3x1 sets in the red zone — especially in the high red zone (11-20 yards) — but also in the tight red zone and often out of 10 personnel.
The Cards featured empty formations in the red zone, almost always with Chase Edmonds as the running back. Edmonds predominantly split out to the boundary side of the formation.
The Cards saw meaningful snaps of zero-blitz in the red zone (especially from the Dolphins, Patriots, and Giants). They could not block it and Murray faced immediate pressure when they were in empty formations.
The Card featured 10 personnel (empty, 2x2, and 3x1 sets) in the red zone. In 3x1 sets, when the boundary was to the right side of the formation Kirk was the x, When the boundary was to the left side of the formation Hopkins was the x
Murray’s legs were a significant factor in the red zone, both by design and second-reaction improvisation. Overall, he is tough to defend in the red zone.
KYLER MURRAY – THIRD DOWN AND 6+ YARDS TO GO
Ten personnel is a significant part of the Cards’ third-and-long approach. It’s also a staple of the Air Raid pass game that is the foundation of Kliff Kingsbury’s background as a player and coach.
The Cards predominantly lined up in 3x1 sets out of 10 personnel with either DeAndre Hopkins or Christian Kirk as the boundary X depending on what hash the ball was on.
The 49ers featured multiple tactics to limit Murray’s second-reaction running on third-and-long in Week 1. They used Cover 1 Robber out of dime with the robber in position to react to Murray, and T/E and E/T stunts to keep Murray contained in the pocket.
A staple vertical route concept for the Cards was a double post from one side with a crosser from the other side.
Washington played high-percentage zone coverage on third-and-long against the Cards — Cover 4 was featured behind a four-man defensive line rush.
Murray at times broke down in the pocket when there wasn’t pressure. Was that a function of his size and his inability to see things and get a clear picture?
Hopkins almost always lined up to the left side of the formation and was the boundary X in 3x1 sets when the ball was on the left hash. Hopkins lined up on the right side of the formation in some third-and-long snaps, both as the boundary X and in twins and trips formations.
Kirk was predominantly the boundary X to the right side of the formation in 3x1 sets when the ball was on the right hash.
The Cards’ passing game on third-and-long did a good job with concepts and combinations that expanded the field horizontally and stretched the field vertically. They didn’t have more success with these concepts because they required deeper dropbacks, which created more bodies around Murray and limited his vision as a late-in-the-down pocket passer.
Murray’s second-reaction running ability is always a big factor in his game, especially on third downs. His scrambling ability was a significant part of his third-down repertoire with his at times frenetic movement and his tendency to break down in the pocket prematurely.
One thing that stood out was defenses felt comfortable blitzing the Cards on third-and-long. They saw both man and zone pressure schemes.
Murray has shown the ability to make strong throws falling away from pressure, which is a trait he needed to develop given his short stature. It’s a double-edged sword with some throws that are right on the money and others that are inaccurate.
The Cards’ passing game had almost no rhythm to it on third-and-long, which is a function of pass protection and Murray’s tendency to prematurely break down in the pocket and leave some throws on the field. There weren’t many pass-game concepts executed within structure.
Murray’s ball placement remained erratic and inconsistent. He must become more precise with his ball location to take the next step to become a consistent passer.
Murray must continue to improve with his elimination and isolation. He must continue to develop a better feel for the route concepts versus specific coverages.