How Kyler Murray got bigger, stronger, just as fast for Year 2 breakout with Cardinals

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The spotlight on Kyler Murray’s size as a NFL starting quarterback won’t go away, until he achieves the elite status of Seahawks division rival Russell Wilson. Murray will always stand 5-10 for the Cardinals, but there is a noticeable difference in the 2019 No. 1 overall pick in 2020.

Murray is still listed as his rookie playing weight of 207, but when seeing him play now, it’s clear he weighs a little more, 10-to-15 pounds, with a build more like the stocky Wilson (5-11, 215 pounds). It’s natural for quarterbacks in the NFL to improve their strength and conditioning early in their careers. That becomes easier once the mental aspect of learning an offense is down, an advantage Murray had early in coach Kliff Kingsbury’s scheme, because it was made to cater to both Murray’s spread passing and running abilities.

Murray is one of the NFL’s fastest players, period. It’s between him the Ravens’ Lamar Jackson, who also can run the 40-yard dash in less than 4.4 seconds, on who is the league’s fastest quarterback. If you thought Murray was impressive in rushing for 544 yards and 4 TDs and averaging 5.8 yards per attempt as a rookie, Year 2 blows that away so far.

Through five games, Murray is up to 296 yards and 5 TDs, averaging 7.2 yards per attempt and just shy of 60 yards per game. That puts him on pace to rush for 960 yards, with the chance to double last year’s 16-game output. 

When he’s running, Murray’s elusiveness and quickness have allowed him to avoid big hits, often gain chunk yards and TDs while untouched. Another big part of the equation is the less physical toll he’s taken while hanging in there to pass.

Last year Murray was sacked 48 times, or an average of 3 times per game. This season, Murray has been sacked only 8 times in five games, for a much lower season-long pace of 26 sacks. He’s also not being hit nearly as much whether he’s inside the pocket or taking off and running.

Teammates noticed Murray putting in extra work in the weight room. But it wasn’t for body style points or something to do workout-wise during the limited access to the Cardinals’ facilities. Outside linebacker Chandler Jones, who had 19 sacks last season but is now lost for the rest of 2020 with a biceps injury, could immediately see the upcoming sophomore advantage for Murray.

“He’s definitely bulked up and that’ll be good for him, especially in this league,” Jones told the Cardinals’ official website during training camp. “There is no quarterback that goes through games without being sacked. That’s just the way it goes. When he has a little more meat on his bones, he can take hits.”

Murray has been more decisive with the ball in his hands. He’s getting passes out more quickly and seen his completion percentage rise to 69.6 and his yards per pass attempt bump up to 7.2. When he’s running, he’s often bursting into open daylight or like Wilson, using his baseball sensibilities to slide out of trouble.

By getting stronger, Murray also has become smarter and tougher. Unfortunately for opponents, he’s also still speedier than most QBs in the league.

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