Kyler Murray vs. Dwayne Haskins: Battle of the Year-Two Quarterbacks
"We've obviously crossed paths in the draft process at the Combine and stuff like that but I don't really know him too well to speak on him." -- Kyler Murray
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray said he does not know Washington Football Team's Dwayne Haskins well. The two second-year quarterbacks grew up on opposite ends of the country and never faced each other as starters in college.
However, they have been indirectly linked since the 2018 season.
The race to the College Football Playoff was fierce between Haskins' Ohio State Buckeyes and Murrays’ Oklahoma Sooners that year. Both quarterbacks were exceptional, combining for over 9,000 passing yards and 85 touchdowns. Their teams each finished the regular season 11-1 and won their respective conferences. But with three undefeated heavy hitters (Clemson, Alabama and Notre Dame) only one of the two would make the playoff.
The committee rewarded Murray and the Sooners, as their one loss was a close game against a ranked opponent. Ohio State’s was a blowout loss to mediocre Purdue.
In the Heisman voting, Murray defeated Haskins (who finished third) to win the hardware.
There was some debate over which would be selected higher in the draft, but Murray, a favorite of head coach Kliff Kingsbury, was taken first overall by the Cardinals and Haskins 15th by Washington.
The two did not face off as rookies last year, so Sunday will be the first meeting between them. Murray has more experience under his belt entering the matchup, as he started 16 games last year to Haskins' seven.
The second-year Cardinal has also gained more attention entering this season with some talk of an MVP candidacy, but Haskins has improved throughout his starts dating back to the second half of last year when he took over.
On Sunday, Haskins led a comeback from down 17-0 to win 27-17. He was not dominant (17/31, 178 yards), but he looked sharp in the second half and didn’t turn the ball over.
His head coach, Ron Rivera, told Arizona reporters Wednesday how Haskins has matured.
"For Dwayne, all you have to do is watch the way he handles himself now compared to last year," Rivera said. "That's one thing I looked back at, some of his practice tape from his last four games that he started and see how he handled those compared to how he's handling things now. See how he handles those last four games last year and see how he played the other day. You can see his growth. He's maturing, not just physically but mentally as a football player. And as a leader, he's done some really good things to help."
Haskins has a young core of weapons to lead and grow alongside with. He is in a different situation than Murray, who has DeAndre Hopkins and Larry Fitzgerald, two proven receivers with a lot of Pro Bowls between them. There's uncertainty surrounding Haskins as a young quarterback on a rebuilding team, but Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson said on Thursday they are not devoid of talent.
"Dwayne has a lot of talent, big, strong arm," Peterson said. "Although those guys were very, very young, those guys have a ton of talent on that football team. They just need more games together, more time together so they can get that chemistry, that timing down. The playbook can open up a little bit more for for Dwayne. Those guys have a lot of talent across the board, offensive line, receivers and they got a great group of running backs. And they're going to try to slow the game down for Dwayne and give him he as easy reads as possible."
Murray has had more success early in his careers and more proven pieces around him, but perhaps this could be a motivating game for Haskins to get one up on Murray early on.