The Arizona Cardinals are off to a bad start this season.
They’re 1-2, but the win came on a frenetic comeback against the Las Vegas Raiders. Many of the highlights in that comeback came from Kyler Murray making things happen with his legs.
The rest of the time, Murray’s running game has been missing from a mostly punchless Cardinals offense (Charles McDonald broke down the problems in his Four Verts column this week). Plenty of people have wondered if the Cardinals need to get Murray running more to rediscover their offense.
Murray agrees. Apparently Kliff Kingsbury doesn’t.
Kyler Murray not running as much
Murray was asked this week about his lack of running this season. He said he’d like to run more but it’s not his call.
“It’s more so if I’m asked to do it then I do it,” Murray said, via ArizonaSports.com. “There’s certain situations as of late where it’s got to come off scrambles and stuff like that, whereas teams may not allow me to scramble as much. The people asking why I’m not running and stuff like that, it’s not by want-to or anything like that. I think just design right now. I’ve said I would love to implement that more but I just do what I’m asked to.
“I’ve seen the stats and stuff like that. But again… the plays that are called I try to go out there and execute them.”
There’s a bit to unpack there, but “I just do what I’m asked to” is the key phrase.
What’s not in debate is Murray is running less. He has four attempts per game, his career low. In 2020 he had 8.3 rushing attempts per game, and he turned that into 819 yards and 11 rushing touchdowns. That adds a lot of value to the offense. Before this season he averaged 6.7 rushing attempts per game.
Murray is also averaging 47 passing attempts per game, by far his career high. His passer rating is a career low 82.6.
Murray isn’t the same quarterback when he isn’t adding value as a runner and a passer. The Cardinals are 9-1 through Murray’s career when he has 10 or more rushing attempts in a game. They’re 0-10-1 when he has four or less.
At this point the struggling Cardinals, who were very close to being 0-3, are cutting way back on Murray’s rushing to have him pass a lot more than he’s passing at the most inefficient rate of his career. That’s not by Murray’s doing, he says. That’s the plan.
That approach seems wrong, but the Cardinals have a reason for it.
Murray has suffered injuries
In each of the past two seasons, Murray has taken on injuries during the season and the Cardinals have collapsed in the second half of the season after a strong start. Those two things are clearly related.
Murray is listed at 5-foot-10, 207 pounds. He’s probably not built to be a high-volume rusher. The Cardinals have seen his play fall off hard each of the past two seasons due to injury.
It’s a conundrum. Presumably the Cardinals know their best offense is with Murray maximizing his skills as a dual-threat quarterback. Yet having him run more makes him much more susceptible to injury, and they’ve seen Murray struggle when he tries to play through it.
At some point the Cardinals are going to have to encourage Murray to run more, be more efficient in the dropback passing game or continue to struggle with a below-average offense. It’s not like the Cardinals defense is going to save them.
All we know going forward is that Murray will do what he’s asked to do.