If Kyler Murray doesn’t want to run, Cardinals play-action usage must go up

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Kyler Murray
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Kyler Murray /

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray was phenomenal in the running game last year, until an injury changed everything.

Being one of the most electrifying runners at the quarterback position in a while, Kyler Murray was on pace to have an incredible season on both offensive fronts for the Arizona Cardinals in 2020. That was a fun ride until the Week 11 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, in which Murray sustained a shoulder injury.

Murray has been vocal about how he was the only one at times to be the featured runner in Arizona‘s offense. Murray added to that earlier this offseason when he said he preferably wants his legs to be “a luxury” instead of the high mileage he accumulated in 2020. Despite the Cardinals having the seventh-most rushing yards in the NFL last season, it all came in spurts down the stretch.

There has to be creativity in the run game. That goes without question, as the stretch-zone offense could not hold up due to the high usage of 11 and 10 personnel. Even when the Cardinals had run 12 personnel, their success rate was 51 percent in 2020.

So how does Arizona get that done?

YouTube video parallels Arizona Cardinals need for play-action from Kyler Murray, run or pass

Brett Kollman, one of the best film breakdown guys you can watch on YouTube recently posted a video discussing how Justin Fields is already fixing the problems the Chicago Bears had last season. I watched this video myself (only the first 10 minutes applies to Arizona) and instantly saw how it’s basically the same issue the Cardinals had.

In the video, Kollman talks about the effects Mitchell Trubisky and Nick Foles had on Chicago’s run game. Long story short, the Bears run game was more explosive when Trubisky played due to his mobility and being under center. This clip here shows just how important it is to sell the play-action from the quarterback’s standpoint.

The play-action motion holds that edge defender and lets the running back in for the score. Kliff Kingsbury made it known early on that under-center plays wouldn’t really be a thing for Arizona’s offense.

That needs to change, as even the threat of a Murray bootleg is going to be another weapon come game time for the Cardinals.

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This is how Arizona can maximize Murray’s effectiveness, and really make the offensive line’s job that much easier by adding this in more. Let’s hope the Cardinals take note and apply this heading into the season as it’s going to help be more unpredictable on offense.