The bond between a quarterback and his offensive linemen is paramount when building the pieces of a successful franchise. Talent is a solid foundation, but chemistry sets Super Bowl teams apart from playoff contenders and the riff raff.
In his rookie year for the Arizona Cardinals, quarterback Kyler Murray earned the respect of his front five. His developmental arc from the beginning to end of the season, which included a paltry five wins, made a profound impact on the franchise as a whole.
The relationship he developed with left tackle D.J. Humphries, the protector of his blind side and most trusted confidant on the football field, has blossomed as a result.
"I found out the other day that he named his dog after me," Humphries told reporters via videoconference Monday. "He really cares about me. He told me he was going to choose (the name) Hump Jr., Lil' DJ or Sev-fo. That's a short, abbreviated Southern way to say 74 (Humphries' jersey number)."
After winning Offensive Rookie of the Year, Murray has settled into a leadership role. Despite not having in-person offseason training via OTAs and minicamp, his presence and attention to detail were felt in the virtual meetings.
"The thing that he's doing the most, I think, is becoming himself," Humphries said. "He's realizing that he can be Kyler Murray and not have to try to stand up in the light and be this guy. It's cool to be yourself and be the guy that you think you are and not have to hold yourself up to an image. I'm excited to see his progression from Year 1 to Year 2. I think he's going to explode."
With elevated expectations, Murray will have to navigate a revamped offensive roster that features arguably the highest marquee addition of the offseason in wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Despite not having the opportunity to officially engage and train at the facilities, players are hoping to gather in wideout Larry Fitzgerald's hometown of Minneapolis to work out, according to head coach Kliff Kingsbury and wideout Christian Kirk.
"Just imagine the attention to detail this guy's been locked in on all offseason," Humphries said of Murray. "The way that this kid focuses, it's hard to compare to any other rookie that I've been around. I've never seen it. It's fun and it's refreshing to see. And he is so confident in himself in the way that he does stuff. You can tell that's why he's so focused on everything that he does in a way that he does stuff, his technique, the way he's trying to do things and how he wants stuff to look. Because he's so confident in himself and he's all about backing up what he says and how he feels about himself and it's so refreshing to see.
"That's the energy I want from my quarterback. It became one of those things, just like being around the o-line, it's good to be around a young kid in Week 17 (who) is still talking with Kliff about how he should set his ball up. It's so refreshing to see, so I'm so excited to watch this kid go from Year 1 to Year 2. It's exciting."
Prepping at Charlotte (N.C.) Mallard Creek High before attending Florida, Humphries said he is accustomed to playing with mobile, dual-threat quarterbacks such as Murray. It is one aspect that he said has helped continue to foster the offensive line's relationship with the signal-caller.
"I like having mobile quarterbacks," Humphries said. "It makes it easier because, for me, I know that a mobile quarterback is not going to try to take too many hits because they are mobile. If you're doing your job, there's going to be a few times that you may miss and they're going to get you out of it. They're going to bail you out of stuff. And I know that I can look on film and I can find at least three or four clips that Kyler bailed me out of a set and then completed the ball.
"I love playing with a mobile quarterback. It's one of those things that I always know, he's one of those back-yard football guys, one of those guys that just knows how to play football. So, he's always going to get to a spot that he needs to. It's one of those weird o-line things that you can feel out as the game goes on."