TEMPE, Ariz. — To Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray, it’s hard to believe that he is already 10 games into his first NFL season, just about six months after he was selected with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.
With six games left in his first season, Murray is on a “steady climb,” coach Kliff Kingsbury said.
So far, his superlatives include setting the NFL record for attempts between interceptions by a rookie (211), a streak that ended Sunday, and becoming one of two rookies — along with classmate Daniel Jones of the New York Giants — to have multiple games with more than 300 yards passing and three touchdowns in their first seasons.
Murray has started every game, is completing 64% of his throws and has 2,553 passing yards to go with 12 touchdowns and five interceptions. His touchdown-to-interception ratio is 8-to-1 since the first four games of the season.
Kingsbury has seen Murray improve in three specific areas: ball security, eliminating negative plays and handling himself in the locker room. Murray’s preparation and leadership are a big part of the latter.
Kingsbury, a former NFL quarterback, says the game has slowed down for Murray in part because he watches a lot of film. It’s something Murray learned to do early when his father, Kevin, would have Kyler watch film of his Pee Wee games that his mother, Missy, recorded from the stands. Back then, Kyler usually watched just the highlights, but these days he’s much more focused.
“I love football,” Murray said of watching film. “I wouldn’t call it a junkie or anything like that. It’s just in me. Whatever has to do with football.
“You go back and visualize things and see what you could do differently. Or if you made a play, see how they defended it. I watch them a lot.”
Murray has learned to eliminate negative plays by throwing the ball away, throwing it at a receiver’s feet or going down before he loses more yards than necessary, something he had a problem with early. All three are at the behest of Kingsbury.
A multisport athlete most of his life, Murray has embraced the amount of time he has to work on football these days. It’s almost too much time, he says, but it has been “a lot of fun.”
“It’s a lot on his own,” Kingsbury said. “In this league, it’s sink or swim when it comes to preparation. 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.”
Murray has also been breaking out of his shell in the first half of the season, and he embraces his role as the face of the Cardinals.
“That’s a tall task,” Kingsbury said. “He’s kind of introverted, as you all have seen, by nature, but he’s starting to understand you have to get out of your comfort zone to be that guy. I think his teammates are starting to understand what he’s about. He’s about winning, and he’s about competing at the highest level.”