Kyler Murray didn't play poorly against the Lions last week, but he didn't play well, his three interceptions (and nearly a fourth) derailing a chance for the Cardinals to start 3-0. But General Manager Steve Keim has no concern for his quarterback, because of the situation -- Murray is going into only his 20th NFL start this weekend, he started just one full season in college, and prior to that he split his attention between football and baseball.
Murray is still learning.
"He looks like a young guy who is still trying to improve," Keim said Friday during an appearance on the "Doug and Wolf" show on 98.7, Arizona's Sports Station. Because of Murray's competitiveness, Keim said, "I would expect him to bounce back in a big way."
Among the other topics Keim discussed:
On the availability of wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who is dealing with an ankle issue, Keim sounded optimistic. "Hop knows his body better than anybody," he said. "When you look at his history, the fact of the matter is he just doesn't miss football games. If I was betting on Hop, I'd bet he'd go, but only he knows his body."
Last week's loss hasn't sit well with him, because of all the things the Cardinals didn't do very well. "The fact we still had a chance to win the game at the end was surprising because the way we played," Keim said.
"You have to be critical in this business," Keim added. "Find out where you can improve. Really disappointed with the way we played overall."
Keim acknowledged there have been times when he has been concerned about the way the defense has played "streaky, or we lack finish," like at the end of the Detroit game. But "Vance (Joseph) has done a good job of improving this defense. We still have a ways to go."
Keim said he was "bullish" that linebacker Chandler Jones will get his sack numbers up (Jones has one sack so far.) But with the attention Jones is drawing from opposing blocking schemes, that is an area where teammates have to step up, he said.
Adding veteran safety T.J. Ward was about thinking long-term this season. Because of testing protocols, the timeline is extended when bringing players in. "Sometimes you make roster moves that are proactive rather than reactive," Keim said, adding "you want to stay ahead of the curve."
Keim said he has no concerns about the development of Isaiah Simmons, saying opposing offenses will dictate Simmons' role week to week right now and emphasizing again "I think he has a bright future."
The GM said it was "nice" to see the production and improvement from second-year wide receiver Andy Isabella.
"The first year, like we said before, he was sort of drinking water through a fire hydrant," Keim said. "Coming into the season, watching him in training camp, even though he didn't have a lot of touches early on, just seeing him you felt like the light came on and he was heading in the right direction."
The Cardinals have done a good job as an organization with the COVID protocols in place, Keim said, and anything the league asks for the Cardinals will do. (The Titans had two more players test positive Thursday.) As for the new agreement between the players and league that players cannot leave the city during the bye week in order to test and stay safe, "I think it's worth the sacrifice."
Kliff Kingsbury and Matt Rhule are friends, no doubt adding a layer of interest to Sunday's game in Carolina between the Cardinals and the Panthers. Not only are the two high-profile college coaches who made the jump to the NFL, but Rhule handed Kingsbury his final college defeat in 2018, the one that ultimately got him fired.
And Rhule felt bad.
"Just to tell you the kind of man he is, he literally texted me an hour after the game as it was coming out I had gotten fired just saying, 'Sorry about that.' " Kingsbury told Carolina reporters Wednesday. "And (he) was genuine about it. He really felt bad I had lost my job because they had beat us."
The regular-season finale between Texas Tech and Baylor had been a playoff of sorts. The winner would be bowl eligible, the loser not. Baylor came way with the 35-24 win. Kingsbury was fired with two years left on his contract.
"I was sad for him at the time because I think he's a really good coach, I think he did a great job at Texas Tech and when he was leaving I just wanted to call and let him know if there was anything I could do for him, just like I know he would do for me," Rhule said. "When he got this opportunity in Arizona, I got fired up for him. Every time I get a chance to see him I make sure to reach out."
Kingsbury landed on his feet well, first taking the offensive coordinator job with USC, albeit briefly until the Cardinals came calling in January of 2019. Rhule, meanwhile, finished up a superb job at Baylor -- after rebuilding Temple before that -- before being hired by the Panthers this offseason.
"I consider (Kliff) a friend," Rhule said. "He's one of the guys I called when I was trying to figure out last year if I was going to go to the NFL or not. He was kind enough to have a couple of my Baylor coaches out to talk football with him when he first went to Arizona to help us in the Big 12."
Kingsbury too had high praise for his counterpart.
"He's a phenomenal coach and an even better person too," Kingsbury said. "He's one of my favorite people I've met in coaching."
When I was younger, I often read about old-timey sports - baseball, mainly - and that game (and football) in its infant stages and even some newspaper articles about games at the time. Sportswriting was a whole different thing back then - Four Horseman of the Apocalypse and all that (Google Grantland Rice sometime) - but there was a one-sentence lead to a game story that always stuck with me.
Here's one that’ll bring the weeps.
Sunday, the way the Cardinals played, it was one that brought the weeps.
When Corey Peters said he felt the Cards were fortunate to be in the position they were late to have a chance to win, I could feel that. It's why it was so frustrating. There was nothing that happened that left you feeling the Lions were better. That's the NFL, oftentimes, I know. But man, to lose on a field goal to end the game when so much was missed out upon. There were times it looked like the Cards could have 40 points if they just … just did what they should.
Ultimately, the discussion is going to be about Kyler Murray. It's always going to be there with the quarterback. He was not good throwing the ball Sunday, and without all the game-changing running, it hurt. He can't throw all the picks. I know, duh. (That's two intentional grounding penalties in two games where it just seems Murray needs to better understand the rule so he isn't flagged.) He made mistakes, and it won't be the last time. Quarterbacks do that sometimes - Kurt Warner had a couple of awful days once upon a time. But he's the guy, he's going to be the guy, and he should be The Guy. He can see his receivers just fine.
But the consistency needs to be better. On offense. On defense. There are two games against two struggling teams the next two weeks. You can make the argument the Cards are too.
Murray made some mistakes, but you will not find a better pass than the one he dropped into Andy Isabella for the first touchdown. And Murray's TD run was all him too, after the Lions sniffed out the play.
That's a new one for Larry Fitzgerald. He's only had zero yards one other time in his career, back in 2004 in the wind-whipped rain of Buffalo, and he didn't have a catch that day. (The only time in his career he hasn't had a catch in a game he's played.) Sunday, he at least kept his catch streak alive, but to get no gain was jarring. He's had six previous games in his career where he had less than 10 yards receiving. Something tells me it won't happen again this season.
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