Arizona Cardinals' Kyler Murray a Major Issue for Struggling New York Jets 'D'

Kristian Dyer

One of the most versatile quarterbacks in the NFL, Kyler Murray is going to be more than a handful for the New York Jets defense on Sunday.

Murray threw for just 133 yards last week for the Cardinals and yet, he still had three passing touchdowns in what was a Week 4 loss to the Carolina Panthers. Murray’s arm strength coupled with his ability to run makes him a weapon for the Cardinals and nightmare for opposing defensive coordinators.

Last year’s No. 1 overall pick, Murray is a dynamic playmaker with his ability to escape and a savvy pocket passer who has improved his touch after a strong rookie season, making him quite the handful for Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams this week. For the New York Jets, it will be more than just containing Murray but actually bringing pressure that keeps the Cardinals quarterback unsteady and away from his progression.

“To keep him in the pocket, try to make him one-dimensional because he can throw and use his feet as well once he gets outside the pocket,” safety Marcus Maye said on Thursday.

“If we can pressure him, make him one-dimensional, I think we can be OK.”

It won’t be easy for the Jets, considering that in Week 4, the defense struggled at times and gave up big plays to Denver Broncos quarterback Brett Rypien. It isn’t a knock on Rypien to say that the Jets should have done better as a defense. Even as the Jets intercepted Rypien three times, the Broncos still managed to thrive off big plays in giving the Jets their fourth loss of the season.

It was underwhelming from the Jets defense given that Rypien is the Broncos third-string quarterback, started the season on the practice squad and Week 4 at New York was his first NFL start.

Against a far more polished and athletic quarterback in Murray, the Jets will need to seriously step up not just their coverage but their ability to condense the pocket and get after Murray.

It doesn’t bode well for the defense; the Jets didn’t sack Rypien in Week 4.

“It’s not an easy assignment for sure. When you have a guy that can move the way he can move, and he can throw the ball away he can throw,” Jets head coach Adam Gase said.

“He sees a lot when he gets outside the pocket or when he steps up and gets flushed out there. He can either take off if nobody comes up to try to put pressure on him and really create explosive plays on his own. But at the same time, when you do close the cushion, he can get the ball off and he’ll find the open guy. He has really good vision, he can see a lot, especially when he’s on the move. And then he’s got a couple pretty good guys to throw to as well.”

Murray, who has 919 passing yards with seven touchdowns and five interceptions on the year, is showing significant improvement over his rookie season. His completion percentage is up as is his touchdown percentage. And while his yards per attempt is down and his interception percentage up a tick, Murray is still showing signs of development from a season ago.

One major reason is improved protection. Last year, Murray was sacked a league-high 48 times. A combination of getting the ball out of his hands faster and improved protection has seen Murray sacked just seven times this year.

By comparison, Jets quarterback Sam Darnold has already been sacked 12 times this year. He will miss Sunday’s game with a shoulder injury, suffered when he was sacked and thrown to the turf in Week 4.

Another area of concern for the Jets comes on the penalty front. Last week, they had 11 penalties for 118 yards against Denver.

Six of those penalties were personal fouls.

Given Murray’s ability to take off with the ball and make plays with his feet, there is a legitimate concern that the Jets undisciplined defense from a week ago might struggle against a player as athletic as Murray.

“We just have to play smart, we have to see what he’s doing and we have to react off it. And that’s part of the game, everybody else has got to do the same thing,” Gase said on Thursday. “So, we just have to do a good job of understanding when he’s going down and when he’s not. A lot of times it’s situational. You’ve got to understand where the sticks are and what’s going on around you.”

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