Cardinals’ Kyler Murray quickly proves he belongs

BALTIMORE — Kyler Murray sat at his cubby in the cramped visitors’ locker room of M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday afternoon holding tight his newest prized possession — a game-worn jersey, fresh from the back of his former Oklahoma teammate and now Ravens rookie wide receiver Marquise Brown. Murray clutched it briefly, appearing for a moment to think, “What a long, strange journey it’s been.”

Minutes after his first loss as a professional quarterback — and fully aware that if not for his heroics in salvaging a Week 1 tie against Detroit that it would’ve been his second loss — the new face of the Arizona Cardinals was dejected but not depressed. There was a sense among the Cardinals that they had let one slip away, that they’d lost to a good Baltimore Ravens team but had not succumbed. This was not the 3-13 team from last season that collapsed so easily.

Murray jovially chatted with his locker-room neighbor, practice-squad quarterback Kyle Sloter, and he cleaned himself up a bit before heading to the post-game podium, picking small pieces of debris from his hair.

“(Am I) feeling good about where are right now, coming off of last season?” Murray said. “Last season is last season. This is a new one, and for me, personally, I’m not cool with losing. We played hard, lost by six, and we had a chance to win it and we came up short.”

This was particularly true of the team’s red-zone woes, as the Cardinals had three drives stall inside the 4-yard line, resulting in three Zane Gonzalez field goals.

That was the main topic of conversation on a day when Murray’s counterpart — Baltimore’s young star quarterback, Lamar Jackson — had no such issues. The Ravens had touchdown drives of 94 and 85 yards in the first half, and Jackson helped Baltimore move to 2-0 with 392 yards from scrimmage (120 rushing) and two touchdowns.

Facing a hostile, purple-clad crowd, Murray held up for the most part, but he admitted after the game that he had his bad moments. “It just got loud as hell,” he said. “We’ve got to be better, plain and simple. It’s a loud environment, a great environment to be in, and it kind of just got to us.”

If he did buckle, he didn’t show it.

According to the Cardinals, that is a familiar trait for the stoic top pick. In interviews and in the locker room, Murray plays it pretty close to the vest. At the podium Sunday, he was cordial but not overly revelatory. He did not throw his offensive line under the bus, even if, with eight sacks in two games, it has at times deserved it.

“They’re a team that likes to bring a lot of pressure,” Murray said of the Ravens. “They got back there a little bit today. I thought we handled it well for the most part.”

The Cardinals have come to expect such leadership from Murray, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 draft.

Murray began to earn their trust early in the offseason, said Cardinals backup quarterback Brett Hundley, no stranger to backing up great leaders. Hundley was drafted by Green Bay in the fourth round of the 2015 draft out of UCLA to serve as Aaron Rodgers protégé. After three rocky years with the Packers, Hundley moved to Seattle last season, where he backed up Russell Wilson. He knows a good quarterback when he sees one, and he sees one in Murray.

“You’ve got a lot of pressure on you as the No. 1 pick, as a quarterback for the team that was the worst in the league last year,” he said. “To come in and say ‘I’m going to help this team win games,’ when you’re not expected to? That’s a really hard task. Everybody puts pressure on him. That’s a lot, especially for a young cat. But nothing seems like it fazes him.”

Hundley said Murray has been humble in his approach, and “very teachable.”

“Even after bad days, he’d come in the next day and do his thing,” Hundley said. “He’s very consistent. It took me years to get to that point, to feel that. To see him come in and be able to handle this? The NFL is hard for everybody, but he isn’t showing that.”

There are steps, though, and Murray must take a big one soon.

With Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers and Wilson and the Seahawks coming to Arizona the next two weeks, Murray’s first win might not come until Week 5 at Cincinnati, or perhaps two weeks later at the New York Giants.

Salvaging a tie in Week 1 was nice. Standing firm against a solid Ravens squad was a positive.

In two games, Murray has passed for 657 yards, the second most for a player in his first two starts. Newton holds the record, set in 2011. But with eight sacks taken and just 17 rushing yards on six carries, Murray hasn’t yet shown the dual-threat versatility that scouts raved about.

It’ll come, that seems to be sure. And so will a win. Soon, he hopes.

For now, it’s a good start.

“I’m not where I want to be five years from now,” Murray said. “But as far as being comfortable, I feel pretty good right now.”

By: Jon Gold

Top takeaways from first round of 2019 NFL Draft

The first round of the 2019 NFL Draft offered us a ton of surprises. Did the New York Giants really take Daniel Jones with the sixth pick? Their division rivals in the NFC East, the Washington Redskins, seemed to hit a home run with fellow quarterback Dwayne Haskins at the midway point of Round 1.

Meanwhile, the Buffalo Bills and Oakland Raiders went in different directions along the defensive line — one getting a true stud and the other reaching big time.

It seems like Arizona Cardinals general manager Steve Keim admitted his mistake from a year ago by taking Kyler Murray at No. 1. And remaining in the NFC West, the San Francisco 49ers added the draft’s best player.

These are among the top takeaways from the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft.

Matt Patricia turning Lions into Patriots 2.0 

We’re not going to sit back and say this is a bad thing. It isn’t. After signing former Patriots defensive end Trey Flowers to a massive contract last month, Patricia and the Lions went back to the well again on Thursday. The former Patriots assistant selected Iowa tight end T.J. Hockenson with the No. 8 overall pick in the draft. Hockenson was the consensus No. 1 tight end in the draft and is seen as a freak of nature.

It’s rather clear that Detroit is trying to provide Matthew Stafford with the same type of weapons we’ve seen Tom Brady excel with in New England. In this case, it’s almost a carbon copy of Rob Gronkowksi. It should do wonders for Stafford and Co.

Raiders’ drama seemed to be real 

Jon Gruden and Co. were apparently looking to move up for either defensive tackle Quinnen Williams or edge-rusher Nick Bosa. The target area was the San Francisco 49ers at No. 2 overall. Instead, Oakland stood pat with the fourth pick and selected Clemson edge-rusher Clelin Ferrell.

While seen as a first-round prospect, Ferrell was nowhere near projected to go within the top 10, let alone the top five. In fact, Oakland selected him over fellow pass-rusher Josh Allen. It was a major reach at an area in the draft that teams must avoid reaches. It also lends credence to the idea that predraft drama in Oakland’s war room was real. Oakland then went running back Josh Jacobs with the second of its first-round picks before adding safety Johnathan Abram to close out Day 1. All three of these picks were reaches.

Bills get a real steal in Ed Oliver 

After seeing Oakland reach with Ferrell and the New York Giants come out of left field with their selection of Daniel Jones, Buffalo was able to add an elite player at a need position. A dominant figure at Houston, Oliver came under scrutiny leading up the draft. In no way does this mean the defensive tackle isn’t an elite-level talent.

It really seems that teams analyzed Oliver’s game too much. He proved to be overwhelming for college competition. He could be an instant Pro Bowl performer. After rumors persisted that Buffalo might move into the top three for fellow defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, the team added a value pick a nine.

Washington quiets critics for now 

It was being reported in the lead-up to the draft that Washington was potentially looking to trade up for Daniel Jones. In fact, there seemed to be some disagreement between members of the front office. Had owner Daniel Snyder taken over the big board? Apparently not. Standing pat at 15 overall, Washington was able to land the consensus No. 2 quarterback in the draft in the form of Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins.

This represents a major coup for Washington, especially given the injury issues this team is facing in the quarterback room. The Skins didn’t have to move up for Haskins. Instead, they saw him fall right on to their lap. That’s just great for a much-maligned front office.

49ers building a bully 

Most fans in Northern California were pleading for general manager John Lynch and Co. not to overthink this. Selecting No. 2 overall, San Francisco was in position to land the draft’s best overall player. Once the Cardinals picked Kyler Murray at one, this became a reality.

In the end, these 49ers nabbed Ohio State edge-rusher Nick Bosa to team up with recently acquired Pro Bowler Dee Ford on the outside. Add in another Pro Bowler in that of DeForest Buckner at defensive tackle, and this front seven is absolutely stacked. That’s a good thing with Murray, Russell Wilson and Jared Goff in the NFC West.

Panthers ignore glaring offensive tackle need

Florida State edge-rusher Brian Burns could very well be a dynamo at the next level. In no way does this mean that continuing to ignore pass protection in front of often-hobbled former NFL MVP Cam Newton is a recipe for success.

Alabama’s Jonah Williams was off the board when Carolina selected 16th overall. Even then, two other offensive tackles were selected almost immediately after the Panthers’ pick. It just make no real sense for Carolina to continue ignoring pass protection in front of Newton. It’s that simple.

We’re not sure what the Giants are doing

New York wasn’t interested in drafting a quarterback until it was. David Gettleman and Co. didn’t show much confidence in Haskins or Murray before meeting with them. In the end, these Giants made the most eye-opening move of the first round in selecting Duke’s quarterback Daniel Jones No. 6 overall.

It even led to Haskins laughing in the green room. Jones is seen as a major project and likely won’t be ready to start for two more seasons. Then with the 17th pick — acquired in the Odell Beckham Jr. trade — New York went defensive tackle in the form of Dexter Lawrence. That’s one way to get help for Jones and reigning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Saquon Barkley on offense. Ouch!

Some curious moves from the Packers

Former Michigan standout pass-rusher Rashan Gary didn’t seem to be need for Green Bay after the team added edge-rushers Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith in free agency. Add in injury concerns to Gary, and it was a surprise at No. 12 overall.

With their second pick of Day 1 — acquired in a trade with the Saints last year — the Packers picked up a fast-rising safety in the form of Darnell Savage. This was also a curious move from general manager Brian Gutekunst and Co. It’s obviously too early to draw conclusions here. But the Packers went with two boom-or-bust prospects.

Full List


Cardinals could not get more than third-round pick for Josh Rosen?

The Arizona Cardinals are reportedly leaning toward taking Kyler Murray with the first overall pick in the upcoming NFL Draft, but they may not be pleased with what teams are willing to offer — or not offer — in potential trades for Josh Rosen.

Peter King of NBC Sports asked former NFL quarterback Kurt Warner, who lives in Arizona, what he thinks Rosen’s trade value is. Warner said he would give up a third-round pick for the former UCLA star. A “renowned” NFL general manager later told King the same.

“Probably a three,” the GM said. “Not what the Cardinals would think his value is.”

The Cardinals obviously believed Rosen could be their franchise quarterback when they traded traded third-round and fifth-round picks to move up five spots to draft him last year. However, that was under a previous coaching regime, and it’s not exactly a secret that Kliff Kingsbury loves Murray.

Rosen was shaky after Arizona handed him the starting job last year. He threw 14 interceptions compared to just 11 touchdowns, but the Cardinals were a below-average team and starting in the NFL as a rookie is never easy. If teams are only willing to give up a third-round pick for Rosen or less, that may have more to do with them knowing Arizona has no intention of keeping him.

One team has reportedly spoken openly about trading for Rosen, so things could change if there are multiple suitors.

By: Steve DelVecchio

Original Article