TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — Kyler Murray is making all the big plays the Arizona Cardinals expected when they selected the quarterback with the No. 1 overall pick in April.
Even more impressive: Those big plays are coming without many big mistakes.
Murray’s rookie season has been encouraging for many reasons, including his ability to make strong, accurate throws and his ability to run. But his most elite trait might be an ability to avoid drive-killing blunders so early in his career.
Going into Sunday’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Murray has thrown 172 straight passes over more than five games without an interception, which is the longest current streak in the NFL. He also has 56 straight rushing attempts without a fumble.
First-year coach Kliff Kingsbury said the 22-year-old Murray has a mature approach to preparation that’s allowed him to avoid many of the problems that plague rookies.
“This is his job full time, and he’s taking that to heart,” Kingsbury said. “He asks all the right questions. He retains information. He processes it very well, and I think you’re going to continue to see that grow as he figures this deal out.”
The lack of mistakes hasn’t meant a lack of production through nine games. Murray has thrown for 2,229 yards, nine touchdowns and four interceptions this season. He’s also run for 313 yards and two touchdowns.
Arizona (3-5-1) is at the bottom of the NFC West, a difficult division that includes the undefeated San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks and Los Angeles Rams. But the Cardinals have been competitive in almost every game — including a 28-25 loss to the 49ers on Oct. 31 — largely thanks to Murray’s quick development.
The rookie said he’s proud of the lack of turnovers. That doesn’t mean he won’t take chances.
“Whatever I see, I trust my eyes, trust my reads, trust the guys running routes and kind of just let it go,” Murray said. “I can’t play scared or anything like that.”
Murray said football preparation comes natural for him. He wouldn’t categorize himself as a film “junkie,” but he enjoys the process of studying and has been doing it since he was a little kid, when his mom would film pee wee games and his dad would have him study the footage.
It didn’t take hold immediately.
“I was just watching the game for highlights,” Murray said with a grin.
But by high school he started to understand the value of breaking down film. That continued into college and now that he’s a professional, he’s in football nirvana.
“I’ve never had this much time ever playing football and being able to just play football and watch football and do football,” Murray said. “It’s a lot of fun.”
Kingsbury has talked at length about his relationship with Murray and how it’s sometimes hard to pull information out of his low-key quarterback. But one thing he’s never worried about is Murray’s commitment to winning.
“In this league, it’s sink or swim when it comes to preparation,” Kingsbury said. “We can have him as much as we have him, but to separate yourself, it’s what you do when you’re not here. He’s definitely taking that to heart.”
As the games pass, Murray’s development is evident.
In the season’s first month, the quarterback had a bad habit of taking costly sacks while trying to buy an extra second to make a play. Now instead of taking a 10-yard loss, he’ll cut that to five yards by stepping up in the pocket or throwing the ball away.
It’s not the glamorous part of playing quarterback.
But it can often be the difference between winning and losing.
“I like to see that if we made a mistake one week, we don’t make it again, and things of that nature,” Kingsbury said. “He continues on a steady climb, even against some very good teams. There will be some bumps in the road.
“We know that, but he’s putting in the work, and I think it’s showing on Sundays.”
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