New era of NFL quarterbacks pose challenge to 49ers, league

Quarterback Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)
Quarterback Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images) /
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Kyler Murray, Cardinals, 49ers
Quarterback Kyler Murray. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

No. 4: Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals

The offseason moves the Arizona Cardinals’ front office made must have second-year quarterback Kyler Murray and the fanbase amped for this upcoming season.

First, they were able to make a trade with the Houston Texans to acquire one of the league’s best receivers in DeAndre Hopkins by sending a second-round pick and running back David Johnson to Houston while also swapping fourth-round picks.

They were also able to add former University of Houston’s highly rated offensive tackle, Josh Jones, along with a slew of other draft talent.

All that said, Murray will open his second season in the NFL passing to a receiving corps that includes Hopkins, veteran Larry Fitzgerald, Christian Kirk, KeeSean Johnson and Andy Isabella.

That can only serve to build even more confidence for the young signal-caller, who capped an impressive rookie season by being named the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2019. In playing a full 16-game season, Murray passed for 3,722 yards, completed 64.4 percent of his passes with 20 touchdowns, 12 picks and also had another 544 yards and four touchdowns rushing.

The former Heisman Award winner, selected first overall in 2019, came into the league last year with plenty of questions surrounding himself, his head coach Kliff Kingsbury and general manager Steve Keim.

Many wondered if the former Oklahoma Sooner could survive a full season, pointing to his 5-foot-10,195-pound frame as being too light for an NFL QB, especially one who scrambles as much as he did.

Add to that the inexperience of Kingsbury, who has been an unabashed fan of Murray’s since he attempted to recruit him to play for Texas Tech, and the whispers of this union being a potential train wreck began to grow louder.

But perhaps the biggest question was whether Keim, who as general manager had just selected former UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen in the first round (10th overall) of the 2018 NFL Draft, would cut bait and draft Murray anyway, essentially give up on Rosen so quickly.

Apparently, his choice to take Murray has so far proven to be the correct one.

And it has also proven to be a headache for 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh as well. In two career starts against the 49ers, Murray has completed 41 of 57 passes for 391 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. He also has rushed for 101 yards and a touchdown against the defending NFC champions, posing a threat on the ground as well.

His accuracy and laser arm were on display in this play versus San Francisco in Week 9 of the 2019 season:

The comparisons to fellow NFC West signal-caller Russell Wilson may be a bit premature, but the ability to scramble while scanning the field and delivering accurate passes on the run is a skill they both possess.

Adding arguably the best receiver in the league in Hopkins for Murray to use at his disposal can only add grief to defensive coordinators around the league trying to gameplan against them.

While Murray and the Cardinals have some work to do to challenge the 49ers for the division title, the arrow is definitely pointing up for a team that now seems to have secured its franchise quarterback.