Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray brings a challenging matchup for the San Francisco 49ers' defense. Murray is capable of evading the pass of the 49ers due to his freakish athleticism. The guy is fast, really fast. On top of that, if he is able to escape the pocket he can hurt a defense by slinging it to a receiver on a scramble drill.
The dual threat that Murray brings to the table is something the 49ers' defense has not seen this season. However, defensive coordinator Robert Saleh did not sound too concerned about Murray's ability to run.
“It should not overly concern us. We feel good about our team speed. With the ball always being in the middle, the field will always feel smaller for those guys. His speed is definitely a problem and we’ve got to do a good job defensively making sure that we’ve got great angles throughout the day to make sure that we keep him in the shoot.”
Saleh does bring up a good point about the 49ers having great speed on defense. Kwon Alexander and Fred Warner are capable of keeping Murray in check if needed to play the spy role on defense. However, since this game is being played on Thursday night, these players could be feeling somewhat drained. Such a quick turnaround for these players is a strenuous process.
Not to mention that this is a road game for the 49ers. Last week against the New Orleans Saints, Kyler Murray only took off with the ball two times. Prior to that in weeks 5-7, Murray ran the ball at least 10 times to help lead the Cardinals to a three game winning streak during that span. Head coach Kliff Kingsbury is sure to remind Murray of his ability to run, which played a role in their three wins.
Having a quarterback who can take off whenever puts pressure on a defense. You just never know what he is going to do. Murray could just be scrambling around and then suddenly nail his receiver who found a soft spot in the defense. If Murray ends up running on a good portion of snaps he is going to end up tiring out some of the players on the 49ers' defense.
That is likely going to be the case since the 49ers' pass rush generates constant pressure. That pressure is going to force Murray to run the ball more times than not. If this game was played on a Sunday to provide more rest for these players, then I would feel more confident that they could bottle up Murray. Playing on Thursday night does effect both teams, so Murray himself could also come out sluggish as a runner.
However, he only attempted two runs last week and was even benched in the fourth quarter. I'd expect him to be relatively capable of running the ball in heavy doses. Now I'm not saying they have no shot, but Murray will rip off some chunk plays. Robert Saleh is going to have to adjust to that if his players appear to waning.
Luckily for the 49ers, the Cardinals will be without running back Chase Edmonds and most likely David Johnson. They did just acquire Kenyan Drake from the Dolphins, but he shouldn't be cause for concern since he'll be used in limited fashion. A huge chunk of the Cardinals' offense will be missing without their two running backs, so keeping Kyler Murray contained will be much easier.