Old Faces In New Places

David Johnson, HOU

David Johnson has channeled his inner Shawn Michaels and become the heartbreak kid for the past three years for fantasy owners. In 2017, he was the number one overall player on most pre-draft boards then got injured in the first game and that was all she wrote. Back to back disappointing seasons in 2018 and 2019, he now sees himself in Houston as their presumed lead back. Is this the year Johnson finally gets back on track or will he just disappoint again? I’m willing to bet he has a solid year in a Houston offense that, despite having marginal talent the past few years, has seen some decent seasons from running backs. Duke Johnson, RB2 on the Texans, has only had over a hundred carries once in his career and is mostly used as a pass catcher. Therefore Johnson is going to see a large number of the team’s carries. He also has had some nice moments as a receiver and with the loss of DeAndre Hopkins and his 150 targets, Deshaun Watson is going to have to spread the ball around. During his one great season, 2016, Johnson led all running backs in receptions and receiving yards. I doubt Johnson will ever reach elite status as he did before the 2017 season, but if Carlos Hyde can rush for over 1000 yards with the Texans, I’m ready to assume Johnson can get there as well.

Teddy Bridgewater, CAR

Teddy Bridgewater is a good quarterback, but not an ideal fantasy target. In Minnesota, he finished in the 20’s every season in fantasy points, and even in the five-game stretch a season ago with the Saints he finished 19th during that period in scoring for quarterbacks. He’s an accurate thrower and relies on quick throws to be effective. In fact, outside of the two Steelers backup quarterbacks from last year, no one threw fewer air yards on completions than Bridgewater. He is surrounded by studs like Christian McCaffrey, D.J. Moore, and Robby Anderson, but as we all know the team is dependent on McCaffrey. They’re going to feed him the ball any chance they get and most likely will put a big dent in Bridgewater’s fantasy total, particularly touchdowns. Bridgewater’s floor is high, but he’s not going to be your QB1 unless something crazy happens. A concerning part of the Panthers offense is that they allowed 43 sacks in 2019 and that was with mobile quarterbacks in Kyle Allen and Cam Newton. Bridgewater can help alleviate those issues with his short passing game but in the meantime, I’m passing on him until I see how this offense operates under new offensive coordinator Joe Brady. 

Phillip Rivers, IND

I like Rivers in Indianapolis and think he’s going to do wonders for this team. That doesn’t mean I’m too high on him in fantasy. The Colts have a dynamic 1-2 punch at running back in Marlon Mack and Jonathan Taylor and will rely on Rivers to be a game manager. Rivers offers no running ability and is coming off of a season where he threw almost as many interceptions as touchdowns. He was seventh in the league in pass attempts in 2019 and there’s a tiny chance that happens again as he’s most likely going to finish outside of the top half in that category. Besides T.Y. Hilton, the Colts don’t have much experience at receiver and with an unconventional offseason, it could take a few weeks into the season for the passing offense to get in a rhythm. His offensive line is going to be much better in Indianapolis, but the Chargers are a much deeper unit in terms of skill position targets. He’ll be at his best in the short area of the field, getting the ball out quickly. Hilton and Parris Campbell are deep threats, but Rivers finished well below average in throws over 20 yards. I think ultimately Rivers will improve substantially in completion percentage, but see a dip in just about every other statistical category as he becomes a complementary piece rather than the star as he enters his 17th season in the league. 

Matt Breida, MIA

Breida escapes a situation in San Francisco where he was battling two or three guys for touches. Now in Miami, he’s really only battling Jordan Howard. One of the more underrated speedsters in the league, Breida has a 5 yards per carry average for his career and has the potential to increase his catch total with his new situation. While he doesn’t get mention with being one of the fastest players in the league, he had the fastest top speed (22.3 mph) recorded over the past few years and was a home run threat anytime he touched the ball. Jordan Howard has seen his targets and catches decrease every season as he’s been delegated as a pure ball-carrier, opening a big opportunity in Miami. Breida can sneak into that receiving back role due to his quickness and steady hands (only one career drop). There is one big knock against Breida and that is his lack of touchdowns. He only has 10 total touchdowns in his three seasons compared to Howard who has 32 (30 rushing) in his four seasons in the league. Breida will never be mistaken for a bell-cow back, but does well in the opportunities he gets. I do worry slightly about his injury history as it always seems that he’s battling some sort of ailment, particularly in his lower body. Despite this, I think Breida is RB1 in terms of fantasy for Miami and should hover around his career average of 630 yards rushing, but has the upside to double his reception total from last year.

Emmanuel Sanders, NO

Good news for Sanders: He’s not going to be the focal point of opposing teams defenses with Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara as his teammates. Bad news for Sanders: He’s not going to be the focal point of the Saints offense with Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara as his teammates. Sanders slides in nicely as a solid second receiver with the Saints and proved last year with Denver and San Francisco that he still has some juice in him. I wouldn’t anticipate a huge drop in receiving yards (869 in 2019), but I don’t think he gets more than that either. Luckily, the Saints are a high scoring offense and Sanders will have his chances to score. He won’t set the league on fire, but I think it’s realistic he’ll get between 5 to 8 touchdowns. If TreQuan Smith can score on 27% of his receptions, I want to believe that a savvy vet like Sanders can carve out a nice role in New Orleans. I wouldn’t count on him to be a starter for your team, but his high floor makes him draftable as your WR3/4. 

Rob Gronkowski, TB

Let’s be honest, nobody has any idea how Gronk is going to look this season. The last time we saw him play, he was a shell of his former self, but still a dominant run-blocker and made a huge catch in the Super Bowl. His injury past is so long that the doctor has an entire drawer dedicated to him, but after taking a season off, in theory he should be as healthy as he’s been in years. Ultimately, he’s one of the best tight ends of all time and the duo of him and Brady have connected for 79 touchdowns, which is the fifth most for a quarterback-receiver combination. While Arians has never heavily incorporated tight ends into his offense, Brady has a long history of targeting that position and one has to think that the offense will adjust to Brady’s strengths. I believe he’s firmly entrenched as the Buccaneers third receiving option after Godwin and Evans and will be Brady’s go-to guy in the red zone. All things being said, with as deep as the tight end group is this year in fantasy, I’m going to say Gronk finishes between TE 7-11 this year. He’ll be a valuable piece in this new-look offense, but with two stud receivers getting most of the looks and an older version of the former WWE superstar future hall of famer, I’m not expecting huge stats this season.  

Austin Hooper, CLE

This offseason, Hooper cashed in big time and is now the second-highest paid tight end in the league. As he goes from one high-octane offense in Atlanta, he joins another in Cleveland littered with big names which I think lowers the ceiling on his fantasy value. He’s a skilled receiver and has seen his yardage increase every season of his career. He was the sixth-highest scoring tight end in fantasy in 2019 despite missing three games. While he’s had to contend with Julio Jones for catches in the past, he has to fend off an even deeper group in Cleveland as it includes two good running backs and another solid tight end with David Njoku. Luckily, Hooper has a high catch rate (78%) and had all six of his touchdowns from 2019 taking place in the red zone (five coming within the ten-yard line). He will more than likely see similar production this year as he did in 2019 which makes him a solid fantasy option. However, as I’ve mentioned previously the tight end fantasy group this year is really solid so just make sure not to reach on any of them. It’s possible what was good for sixth overall for tight ends last season might be fringe top ten this season.

Cam Newton, NE

While I won’t consider Newton to be a lock for the starting quarterback job, I do believe it would take an injury or unforeseen circumstance for him not to be the starter. ESPN predicts a rather mediocre 17 touchdowns, 10 interception season with him adding 358 yards and 6 touchdowns on the ground. While these numbers may seem low for a player of Newton’s caliber, I actually think this is a good prediction because we don’t know how he’s going to hold up coming off of two major surgeries. He’s never been an accurate thrower of the football and his supporting cast is average but he can still be a scoring machine. Not including last season where he only played in two games, he averaged 7 rushing touchdowns a season. Meaning that while he may not have the speed he once did, he still has the size and the tough running ability to punch it in at the goal line. One advantage that Josh McDaniels’s offense could have for Newton is the short passing game. Newton had his best year in terms of passing percentage in 2018 at 67% yet had an average completed air yards of just 5 yards, tied for tenth shortest. Just two years earlier, he averaged 8.3 air yards on completed passes (second highest in the league), but only completed 52% of his passes. It’s obvious that at this point in his career, he’s not going to be able to successfully push the ball down the field but can get the ball out quickly and to the right receiver. I think the team will use Newton as more of a game manager that will result in more wins, but not necessarily a huge fantasy season. He’s a good buy-low option based on his running ability and an ideal situation in New England.

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2020 Cardinals Draft Review: Heating Up In The Desert

After a terrible 2018 season, the Cardinals embarked on a new journey in 2019 that some would consider to be a major risk. An undersized quarterback and a new head coach that had little success at the college level left the team in uncharted waters. A 5-10-1 record may seem like a bad season, but they were better than their record indicated and have only improved this offseason with now many believing they will be one of the most improved teams this upcoming season. After a strong free agency/trade period, the draft was the cherry on top of a great few months. The Cardinals now have a direction and identity, next up is building a winning culture. 

1.8- Isaiah Simmons, LB/S Clemson

We’ve all heard about Isaiah Simmons at this point. He’s a player that is athletically off the charts for his size who is a true one of a kind type player, as he could be a high-level linebacker or safety. In addition to his freak athleticism, he has an incredibly high IQ and excels against the run and pass both. An incredibly underrated aspect of his game is his ability to use his length to his advantage. In pass defense, he uses his arms to jam up receivers and to defend passes. In the run, he engages with much bigger blockers and disengages them quickly to make the play. He covers so much ground that he may also be a spy against a quarterback, most notably Russell Wilson on the Seahawks. By himself, he eliminates the threat of a quarterback scramble. However, there are natural questions about the fit in this 3-4 defense. Personally, I don’t think Vance Joseph is an elite defensive coordinator and don’t think he’s creative enough to unlock Simmons’ potential. I could be very wrong and even if I am right, that would mean Joseph isn’t there for the long haul. What I think the Cardinals would, and should, do is become a true hybrid defense. Utilize Chandler Jones as an end with his hand in the dirt more often and try to play Simmons in a more traditional weakside linebacker. This would allow him to use his speed and quickness tracking down running backs and then when it comes down to third down, have him guard a tight end or someone out of the backfield. The NFC West has George Kittle, Tyler Higbee, and a zillion tight ends in Seattle, so when it comes to matching up against them, you’ll have the human eraser with Simmons. In this sense, Simmons becomes a safety and you could drop him in zone or creep him up in the box and man up in press coverage. Simmons was one of the most polarizing players in the draft, only because he’s nothing like we’ve seen before which is something that should excite a team. While it could take a season for Simmons to carve out his role, his upside is off the charts and I think he could be at the end of the day one of the two or three best players in this class. 

*2nd rounder for Hopkins

I won’t get too deep into this but just wanted to say… holy crap. What a trade. There’s close to no downside with this trade and if Hopkins continues to play as he has, this Cardinals offense will be one of the NFL’s best. 

3.72- Josh Jones, OT Houston

The Cardinals boasted one of the worst offensive lines a season ago, especially at tackle where they have D.J. Humphries on the left and a question mark on the right side. Kyler Murray can cover up a lot of the line’s deficiencies due to his speed, but we all know that he’s undersized and he’s not going to be able to run on every play. That makes the Josh Jones selection one of the best in the entire draft. Jones for being a fifth-year senior is still raw, his technique and footwork are a work in progress but his athleticism, length, and attitude will make him a starter immediately. In this offensive system which is predicated on speed and spreading the defense out, Jones will be able to play to his strengths and it’ll cover up his issues while he continues to progress. He would presumably become the starter at right tackle right away and then eventually progress to the left side. The Cardinals have a lot of faith in Humphries, but he’s an average tackle, and Jones has the potential to surpass his skill level. In order to get to the top of the division, you’ll have to go through the 49ers, who quite possibly have the best pass rush in the league. Keep beefing up that offensive line Arizona, this is a great first step. 

4.114- Leki Fotu, DL Utah

After a season of being one of the worst defenses across the board, changes had to be made. The first pick was Simmons, then the next two they decided to get some beef on that defensive line, and quite frankly they don’t get much beefier than Leki Fotu. At 6-5, 340 pounds, Fotu is a nose tackle but may not be implemented as a strict 0 technique (lined up over the center). He has shown in college that he has the athleticism to be effective lining up as a 1 or 2 technique (1 is between the guard and tackle and 2 is over the guard). He grew up as a rugby player and you can see it in the way he plays at times. He’s a human bowling ball, just dominating players with his strength and his explosiveness in short areas in special for someone his size. General Manager compared him to Buccaneers DL Vita Vea, which is high praise as Vea was one of the best nose tackles in the league last season. Fotu isn’t a great pass rusher and doesn’t show much technique on that end. However, when you’re bigger and stronger than everyone else, you usually never have to rely on anything else. The Cardinals did just sign nose tackle Jordan Phillips to a three-year deal, but Kliff Kingsbury did say they want to use Phillips all across the line and Vance Joseph has coached Phillips in the past and must trust his versatility across the line. With Seattle and San Francisco having two of the best rushing attacks in the league in your  division, Arizona couldn’t just sit around another season and rely solely on their offense out-scouring them. While Fotu isn’t the dynamic pass rusher so many teams covet now, he’s a space-eater who will carve out a solid role in a suddenly much deeper defensive line. 

4.131- Rashard Lawrence, DL LSU

The second big fella on the defensive line that the Cardinals picked to help their run defense was Rashard Lawrence, one of the team captains from the defending national champion LSU Tigers. Lawrence and Fotu share some similarities as good run-stuffers but go about it in much different ways. While Fotu is just a behemoth of a man and is more suited for a nose tackle role where he can use his sheer strength and athletic ability to bully you, Lawrence relies on his motor and low center of gravity to occupy blockers. He’s a tad short for a defensive lineman (6-2) but as previously mentioned, he uses that to his advantage because he’s able to keep his pad level lower and use his lower body strength to push offensive lineman back. He’s never going to fill up the box score but does the subtle things to be effective. He’s going to take on blockers and blow up blockers forcing the running back or quarterback to redirect. He’ll also never take a play off and give it everything he has on every play. Not many players can genuinely say that they give maximum effort, but Lawrence is one of them. Much like Fotu, he won’t offer you much as a pass rusher. He isn’t quick nor does he have the pass rush moves you’d like to see. Due to this, he might only become a two-down player and rotational piece across the line. He reminds me so much of former LSU Tiger, Ricky Jean-Francois. A positive member of the locker room who may never get the spotlight or attention, but plays for several years and does the dirty work that will go unnoticed in great defenses. I’d line him up as a two-gap tackle and a guy you’ll want to give twenty snaps a game too. Currently, the Cardinals don’t really have a lineman (not counting Chandler Jones) that has had a history of success in the league (Phillips has only had one big season). Because of this, the door is open for Lawrence to get playing time. And as a gambling man, I would never bet against a guy like Lawrence so I would expect him to be a fan favorite in no time. 

6.202- Evan Weaver, LB Cal

Continuing on the theme of needing to strengthen the defense, the Cardinals picked another stud run defender who faces limitations in his all-around game. Ten years ago, Weaver would have been a first-round pick. The Pac 12 Defensive Player of the Year and First Team All-American is a stud against the run, accumulating over 300 tackles in his last two seasons combined. He takes great angles to take down the ball carriers and is able to read blockers as good as any college player. He’s never going to chase down a running back from behind and in many ways is the opposite in terms of athleticism to Simmons. However, he never quits on a play and if he’s not the one making the tackle, he’s going to be close to the ball. His main concern as a player is a lack of coverage ability, both in man and zone. He’s a poor athlete at the NFL level and while he’s a high IQ player, it still doesn’t make up for his slow first step and lack of top-end speed. Often he was beaten in coverage with one simple juke or cut against players who aren’t necessarily premier talents. Having a player of Simmons’s ability however, could make up for Weaver’s deficiencies as a player. Using Weaver as a 3-4 linebacker where he’s playing in tighter areas will allow him to not have to rely on his speed or quickness. Also, Simmons covers as much ground as any linebacker in the entire league possibly so that means Weaver won’t have to be used in coverage much and if he is, it’ll be more so in zone guarding a tighter area. Between Simmons, Jordan Hicks, and De’Vondre Campbell, I would not expect Weaver to see much playing time on defense in year one. Let him develop a bit in practice while he produces on special teams as a rookie. Eventually, you could see Weaver in the middle of a 4-3 defense or, probably the best case for him, add some weight, and utilize his run defending ability as a SAM linebacker. 

6.222- Eno Benjamin, RB Arizona State

When you have a quarterback who can run like Kyler Murray, it doesn’t matter how much you want to pass as a play-caller, you need to get creative on run designs. Because of this, a running back has an opportunity to get a lot of yards while the defense has to respect the other threats in a spread offense. We saw Kenyan Drake’s career take off after being traded to Arizona and averaged 5.2 yards a carry, by far the best he’s done. Despite this, Drake is a free agent after the season and if he performs well again, he could be in line for a bigger contract. Thus the Cardinals will have to explore their options. Chase Edmonds has done well as a backup the past two seasons in limited snaps and the team might want to give him more carries this season to see what they have. Now, they have the local product to round out the running back room in Eno Benjamin. Benjamin for a sixth-round pick is a pretty well-rounded player. He has a lot of success in college and displayed good athleticism and versatility in Tempe. The thing that held him back in college was his lack of patience. Too often he would just run into the backs of offensive lineman rather than let the play develop. This could be a combination of a few things: lack of awareness, poor vision, bad offensive line play, or over-aggressiveness. Whatever it might be, this won’t be a huge problem in the Cardinals scheme. In a shotgun spread system, he will have fewer bodies in the box and athletic lineman in front of him creating holes. Benjamin also has some receiving ability that makes him a three-down playmaker. Drake will undoubtedly be the lead back and primary ball carrier but Benjamin has a chance to carve out a small role that could develop into a starting spot at some point in the future. 

If you liked this post make sure to subscribe below and let us know what you think. If you feel like donating and want access to some early blog releases and exclusive breakdown content or to help us keep things running, you can visit our Patreon page here. Make sure to follow us on Instagram @weekly_spiral and twitter @weeklyspiral for updates when we post and release our podcasts. You can find the Weekly Spiral podcast on Spotify or anywhere you listen.

NFL Film Breakdown: Kyler Murray’s Rookie Season and What his Future Holds

A year after taking Josh Rosen in 2018 with the 10th overall pick, the Cardinals went and grabbed Kyler Murray with the 1st pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Let’s take a look at the film and see how Murray did during his rookie season while leading the Cardinals to a 5-10-1 record under first-year head coach Kliff Kingsbury.

            A few other things jump out when looking at his stats that also end up being backed up by the film. When the Cardinals went no huddle, he completed 70.26% of his passes (61.1% while huddling), had a 96.0 QB rating (82.6 while huddling), had 8.0 yards per pass attempt (6.2 while huddling), and while running the no huddle 35.9% of the time, it accounted for 41.7% of his yards. A similar trend can be found when he is in shotgun versus under center. His completion percentage is 66.6% versus 41.67%, rating is 89.5 versus 66.4, and yards per attempt is 7.0 versus 5.9. When running RPO concepts he also had consistently better numbers than he did on pure drop backs.

 No HuddleHuddle
Completion %70.26%61.1%
QB Rating96.082.6
Yards / Attempt8.06.2
Kyler Murray’s stats when running no huddle vs. huddle
 ShotgunUnder Center
Completion %66.6%41.67%
QB Rating89.566.4
Yards / Attempt7.05.9
Kyler Murray’s stats when in shotgun versus under center
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

None of this is super surprising given the offense he ran at Oklahoma that had him in shotgun, running RPOs, and pushing the tempo. Of concern though, is his ability to be decisive, process NFL reads, and limit the sack numbers when he isn’t running a no huddle offense. A consequence of going no huddle is that the plays become simpler – which can be great for a rookie quarterback used to making basic defender key reads, but can also be easier for defenses to guard against since the play selection, formations, and tendencies are much more specific and easy to identify.

            While Murray has definitely shown flashes, he has a bit of a climb to ascend into a top tier quarterback. The Cardinals offensive line struggled but Murray also routinely had trouble with blitzes and would frequently hold onto the ball too long waiting to see something open instead of throwing with anticipation. When he would throw on rhythm, however, he looked like an entirely different quarterback. Let’s dive in and see some of the potential that Kyler Murray has before checking out some of his mechanical issues and his problems holding onto the ball and being indecisive.

            The Cardinals ran a lot of empty sets which puts a strain on their offensive line, and forces Kyler to make quick, decisive reads. Here they have a simple slant flat concept where he read the flat defender and throws based off of his movement. The Browns appear to be in cover 4 here with each defensive back taking a quarter of the field deep. That leaves the outside linebackers to cover the flats. Kyler keys the outside linebacker to the top of the screen. As the linebacker goes to the flat route, that opens up a window behind him for the slant and Murray makes a decisive throw for a nice gain.

Here’s another simple read out of an empty formation. To the three receiver side, they have a hook, flat, fade combination going on. It’s the same basic concept as the slant flat where you can key the flat defender and throw off of him. Here, #20 sits and doesn’t come down to the hook and Murray throws on rhythm for an easy completion. Backside, they’re setting up a delayed screen if Murray doesn’t like the look to the bottom of the screen.

Here is Kyler recognizing man coverage to the bottom of the screen, quickly holding the safety with his eyes, and then throwing a great ball without hesitation to #14 who wins his route.

When Kyler only has to read one or two things, he can throw with anticipation and accuracy. He gets in trouble when he has to process a lot of things at once which can lead to his sacks and interception issues. Here he is getting off of his first read and throwing on time, with power, and with anticipation for a nice gain on a comeback to the sideline.

These simple reads translate really well to RPO concepts where Murray can make quick decisions based on one or two key defenders and make decisive throws. It fits his current skillset perfectly, protects the offensive line, opens up lanes in the run game for the zone read, and gets the ball in playmakers’ hands. Here the Cardinals run a simple orbit motion behind the QB into a bubble route. Murray is looking at the inside linebacker and playside safety. As soon as he sees that they don’t bump over, it makes it an easy decision to throw the bubble as the Cardinals have the Steelers outnumbered on that side of the field. The throw is low and minimizes the opportunity to get yards after the catch, but we’ll talk about his mechanics issues shortly.

Here’s another RPO that is the same concept just with two receivers. Larry Fitzgerald runs the bubble and the outside receiver blocks the man lined up over top of him. Murray is keying the outside linebacker highlighted in the gif. As he stays and feeds towards the run, Murray pulls the ball and delivers it to Fitzgerald for an easy nine yard gain.

Now that the good stuff is out of the way, let’s check out some of his mechanical issues, penchant for taking sacks, and his problems processing NFL defenses. He will often over rotate his hips, have a base that is too wide or tight, dip his shoulders, or fall away from his throws. This causes a lot of horizontal inaccuracy with the hip rotation and a lot of vertical inaccuracy with his lack of follow through and his shoulder dip.

            On this play you can see Kyler falling away and over rotating on his throw which causes the ball to sail to the right out of bounds when his receiver had half a step downfield on the DB. Ideally this ball is put out in front or with some arc to allow the receiver to run underneath the throw or win the jump ball. You can see as Murray is finishing his throw that he is already leaning and falling backwards. Yes there is a defender coming up on him, but he has space to make the throw and this is a recurring issue for him.

Here’s another case where Murray finishes his throw off balance which causes the ball to be flat and lose power before it gets to the receiver, eliminating any chance for a catch and run. The ball goes where your body tells it to go and here Murray’s body is telling it to go flat and low as he’s falling away.

Here, the opposite issue comes up as he lacks follow through and full hip rotation. He over-extends on his base (his front foot is too far forwards) and this causes him to be unable to generate power and accuracy because he cannot get his hips around. Ideally your belly button is pointing where you want the ball to end up and here Kyler ends up short of his aiming point and just like the last clip, the ball goes where his body tells it to – behind the receiver and into the arms of the defense. You can try this yourself. Get in a wide stance and try to bring your hips and belly button to point to the other side of your front knee. Now shorten your stance to a little bit wide than your shoulders and try to do the same. You should have a much wider angle of hip rotation available to you which helps steer the ball and generate power.

Another big issue with Murray’s game is bailing from clean pockets with receivers open and time to make the throw. Then, when he escapes the pocket, he also tends to bring his eyes down and focus on check downs right in front or search for a running lane. Here he has Kirk #13 breaking open on a deep out but bails from the pocket instead of standing in and delivering the throw. As he rolls out, he has Kirk still working open and coming back to him towards the sideline but Murray is locked in on receivers underneath and signaling at Kenyon Drake in the flats. If scrambling and getting outside of the pocket on broken plays is going to be Murray’s thing, he has to do a better job of lifting his eyes up and seeing the whole field.

Remember the quick hitch from earlier that Murray threw on time? Here’s the exact same play with the exact same read and Murray misses it this time.  He looks to Fitzgerald first but you can see that he looks directly at the hook and doesn’t throw it afterwards. This is a common issue for him. If his first read isn’t there, his instinct is to get out of the pocket and scramble or hold onto the ball for far too long. This is a huge contributor to his sack numbers.

You can see here Murray’s instinct to run first. As soon as he feels pressure or sees a hole to scramble through, he takes it – often leaving big plays on the field in the passing game as longer developing routes are just opening up as he takes off. You can see highlighted at the bottom of the screen the dig route coming open towards the middle of the field.

Here is one last example of Murray’s shallow eyes leaving a big play on the field. Here he escapes the pocket after his first read and hits a hitch for a short gain, which is fine, but there’s also a receiver wide open within his field of view in the end zone.

Defenses haven’t been throwing anything wildly exotic at him as far as pass coverage goes. He does have trouble with the blitz but the biggest issues right now are his indecision on pure drop backs, full field reads, and his inconsistent mechanics. Not something you’d want from a first overall pick at quarterback. When you combine all of those things, you get a guy who was sacked 48 times, misses open receivers on scoring plays when they’re open, and leaves a lot of yards and points on the board. Kingsbury’s offense certainly didn’t help his cause either. While there were some concepts that made it easy for Murray, a lot of it struck me as uninventive and it really struggled to scheme guys open to give Kyler some easy throws on a consistent basis. A ton of stuff was short and emphasized their receivers winning on isolated routes versus the defender in front of them, and when Kyler didn’t throw on time, it essentially wasted the play. All that being said, the raw talent is there. Murray has the arm to make all the throws, can be dynamic in the run game, and when he has a simplified, fast offense that helps him accelerate his decisions, he can be an exceptional quarterback.

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