Christian Kirk Using 'Breakthrough' as Motivation
Arizona Cardinals third-year receiver Christian Kirk didn't get off to the start he wanted to this season.
The former 2018 second-round draft pick caught one pass in the season opener against San Francisco, then made a huge 49-yard reception in Week 2, but sustained an injured groin and was inactive for the next game. He was back by Week 4, but only caught three passes.
But, this past Sunday against the New York Jets was different.
"I think with me getting injured early and then just trying to work back, the first four games kind of started off slow for me," Kirk said Sunday. "I definitely felt like today was a breakthrough."
Kirk was tied with running back Chase Edmonds for second on the team with five catches and held sole possession of second place in receiving yards with 78. He was targeted a season-high seven times in the win and only trailed wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins' 131-yard performance in reception distance. Quarterback Kyler Murray got him involved early with three first-quarter targets, including two connections for 29 yards.
"You can just tell when your guys are feeling it," Murray said after the win. "I could tell he was feeling good. He talked to me on the sideline afterwards. And for me, personally, I try to get them the ball as much as possible. I know how hard he works. I know how much he puts into it. To get him going is a good feeling."
Kirk and Murray found a consistent connection last season. The former Texas A&M product was the second-leading receiver on the team (68 catches) behind veteran Larry Fitzgerald, but had Kirk not missed three games to injury he may have been the top guy. He was targeted seven or more times in nine of his 13 games played. Sunday was the first time this season that was the case.
With the addition of Hopkins and growth of fellow young receivers such as Andy Isabella, the crowded position room ran the risk of drowning out a couple of its targets.
Still, Murray expressed confidence in training camp that the team could produce three 1,000-plus yard receivers. So far, that seems like an over-estimation.
Although Hopkins was still the top target on Sunday, Kirk hopes his performance may lead to an emergence as the No. 2 option.
"It takes pressure off of D-Hop, not feeling like he has to do everything in the passing game," Kirk said. "He can take over, but sometimes you've got to take the slack off him."
Murray utilized his receiver arsenal more effectively Sunday than in any other game this year, completing throws to nine different players and racking up a career-high 380 yards against a woeful Jets' passing defense that ranks No. 25 in the NFL.
Murray and Kirk both called Hopkins the best receiver in the game in recent weeks and Kirk's improvement will only help create another option for the Cardinals' offense to exploit.