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Kyler Murray's Growing Vision Under Center

Murray made several changes at the line of scrimmage in Week 1 that resulted in touchdowns.

The Cardinals threatened to put away the Titans with an 11-point lead late in the third quarter of last Sunday's season opener. 

On third-and-3 from the Tennessee 26-yard line, quarterback Kyler Murray and the offense broke the huddle and approached the line of scrimmage. 

But, they did not run the play head coach Kliff Kingsbury had called. 

Murray saw something enticing. 

The Titans were lined up in Cover Zero, a formation with no safeties as protection in the back. Murray knew his receivers would be one-on-one with defensive backs they had been beating all game. 

Murray checked at the line of scrimmage, changing the play. 

Fourth-year wide receiver Christian Kirk was guarded by rookie Elijah Molden, a matchup Murray keyed in on. 

Murray dropped back, way back, and lofted the ball high in the air off his back foot. 

Kirk ran right past Molden and no one was there to help. Kirk tracked the ball into his hands over his shoulder for the touchdown to make it a three-possession game. 

"He took like an old-school three-step-drop," running back Chase Edmonds said Tuesday. "You remember how like Joe Montana, old quarterbacks kind of just back-pedaled straight up and then like just throw it off two of his feet? I mean, that ball was just floating up there, and it was such a a beautiful ball."

Murray said he knew it would work; it made too much sense in his mind, even if it was not the play Kingsbury intended. 

This intuition comes from now having two-plus years of pro experience, seeing NFL defenses enough to outsmart them. 

"Kyler has progressed tremendously from Day 1, when he first got here to now," left guard Justin Pugh said Thursday. "He just keeps growing as a leader, keeps learning how to read defenses, learning how defenses are going to attack him."

Many Cardinals have spoken this offseason about Murray's growth as a team leader, but the 2019 top pick said he is setting out to improve on all fronts.

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The Cardinals quarterback was as elusive as ever in Sunday's win as a runner, and he showed the ability to hit on any type of throw whether he was moving or set. 

Murray has always been a natural playmaker. But, if he can set the chess board to make it easier to strike, then he can leap to another level as he did in Week 1. 

"They drafted me for a reason," Murray said Wednesday. "As far as this being Year 3, as far as the progression of checking stuff, ownership of the offense, all that stuff takes time. When they drafted me, I knew the direction we were going, but as far as us getting to the top of the mountain and being as good as we can be, I think I'll say we're on the way." 

The touchdown pass to Kirk was not the first check Murray called. 

Murray Hopkins

In the first quarter, center Rodney Hudson pointed out that the Titans were in Cover Zero to the offense. 

Murray checked the play and found wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins on a slant route over the middle. Murray's throw went toward Hopkins' back shoulder, allowing his target to spin, and he lost the defender for six. 

Hudson said he recognized the Titans formation from the film and was able to identify the coverage.

"That way, I can make things easier for not only (Murray), but for the guys next to me on the line, tight ends and whatnot," Hudson said Friday. 

Having Hudson, a two-time Pro Bowler whom Arizona traded for this offseason, has already been a help on several fronts. 

Helping Murray spot coverages and grow in that respect is a key advantage. 

"He's one of the best communicators at any position I've been around," Kingsbury said this week. "The whole game, he's talking to people, he's talking with coaches, with players, with the quarterback. It's really changed a lot for our offense and the way we can play at a quicker tempo more efficiently."

But, Hudson mentioned that he cannot see from Murray's vantage point, and that the young quarterback has continued to grow even in the center's short Cardinals tenure. 

Murray said knowing when to change the play based on the coverage is becoming more natural to him. It took time to reach this point, as it does with all quarterbacks. But, he is confident that when he checks, it will work.

With even more reps as the season goes on with his new receivers, Murray could gain even more confidence to run the show as he envisions it. He's off to a strong start, as the 49ers were the only team on Sunday to score more points than Arizona. 

But, Kingsbury mentioned that Arizona's next opponent, the Minnesota Vikings, run exotic blitzes and coverages called by head coach Mike Zimmer.

This will be a new challenge for Murray's ability to see what's coming behind center.