There is one specific improvement that could result in Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray taking his game to a new level in 2021.
Kyler Murray undoubtedly improved his passing performance in 2020 during his second season with the Arizona Cardinals. Murray’s completion percentage rose by three percent and he added six more passing touchdowns to his 2019 total.
However, one area of the field was a consistent problem for the Cardinals and their young quarterback last season.
The “middle of the field” can mean a few different things. Both intermediate range between 10 and 20 yards, or the center of the field between the hash marks. Murray and the rest of Arizona’s offense faced issues with both definitions throughout last season.
How can Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray improve his performance in the middle of the field?
The intermediate-range of the middle of the field is where Murray threw 10 of his 12 interceptions in 2020 and only seven of his 26 touchdowns. His other two picks came in the center of the field between zero and 10 yards.
The interceptions should be the most concerning aspect of this trend as many of them seemed as if Murray was unaware of the presence of a defender in the area.
Increasing that awareness should be the first step in improving this part of the Cardinals passing game in 2021. Finding the right throwing lanes in the middle of the field is much more difficult than the outside stretches where Murray shined last season. It is undoubtedly something he has been made aware of and something he is working on remedying.
Step two will require the efforts of Arizona head coach Kliff Kingsbury and his coaching staff. Scheming for this part of the field is complex and it requires the careful coordination of the offensive line and some aggressive slot receivers who can reach and fight for the ball.
The last step involves one of the weakest positions on the Cardinals’ current roster. Currently, Arizona has seven tight ends on the team. Maxx Williams is the only one that has significant NFL pass-catching experience, and he is generally considered a blocking tight end.
The acquisition of a true pass-catching tight end could provide Murray the big body and sure hands that he needs to finally unlock the middle of the field.
With Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz and others still potentially available for trade or a signing, it will be interesting to see if Arizona’s front office will be aggressive in securing a position that has historically been very lackluster in the Valley.
Who knows? Maybe addressing the middle of the field might be one of the final obstacles between Murray and an MVP award. Increased production here could have easily pushed him over the 4,000-yard passing mark, one of the benchmarks by which modern quarterbacks are judged.