The way Kyler Murray plays helps him as the Cardinals QB

For Eric D. Williams
FOX Sports NFC West Writer

GLENDALE, Ariz. — When Kyler Murray took over play-calling duties late in the third quarter Sunday night, receiver Greg Dortch he knew the ball was going down the field.

“Kyler is very aggressive,” Dortch said. “He wants the big play every time. I love it. That’s the way he plays. He’s explosive. He’s a playmaker, so of course he’s going to call plays that show that.”

Murray slipping the headset on the sideline brought some juice to the Arizona Cardinals’ 24-17 preseason loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday at State Farm Stadium.

Isaiah Likely leads Ravens over Cardinals

Isaiah Likely leads Ravens over Cardinals

Isaiah Likely was the highlight of the Ravens’ 24-17 victory over the Cardinals on Sunday in Arizona. He probably finished with eight receptions, 100 yards and a TD.

According to coach Kliff Kingsbury, Murray calling plays isn’t a gimmick, just something he has to do so he doesn’t get bored watching the game. Instead, it provides another way for the 25-year-old QB to learn the offense and his role in it.

“He has an opportunity to step back and look at the macro view,” Kingsbury said. “Seeing what’s going on in the protections, knowing where the back is going, seeing the coverage.

“Then even management on the sidelines, talking to Trace [McSorley]: ‘Hey, that’s what I’m looking for.’ It’s a good way for him to stay involved and see it from a different perspective.”

Murray showed up, punching and punching teammates when the Cardinals made big plays. Taking over with his team down 24-3, Murray led the Cardinals on two touchdown drives, cutting Baltimore’s lead to seven points late in the game.

“I’m going to try to redeem myself from last week,” Murray said on the FOX TV broadcast, referring to his stint calling plays against the Cincinnati Bengals. “We had two three-and-outs, so I want to put the ball in the end zone. That’s my job, hopefully to call some good plays for our guys to execute and get the ball in the end zone ends”.

On the last drive, however, Arizona’s offense stalled near midfield, giving the ball to Baltimore. The Ravens then tied the game for the franchise’s 22nd NFL preseason winning streak.

“He did a good job,” Kingsbury said. “I was excited. I was a lot more excited than when I pitch [a touchdown]. I don’t know what this is all about, but it was fun to watch. He was talking to those guys and doing a good job of directing them.”

Kingsbury said he used the time at the end of the game to evaluate players without having to worry about what play was needed. But he won’t be giving up his day job anytime soon.

“My life would be a lot easier if I didn’t call plays,” Kingsbury said. “It’s a good gig if I could do it. But I wouldn’t get paid to do it.”

The Ravens were down by 21 points when Murray took over, so Dortch wasn’t surprised the QB called 21 passing plays and just five rushing plays.

“I love it,” Dortch said. “I understand we have to run the ball to keep the defense honest, but any time we can run the ball, I’m all for it.”

It’s been an eventful training camp for the franchise quarterback. After signing a $230.5 million extension just before the start of camp, a leaked independent study clause in the contract made national headlines. The team later removed the attachment, calling it an unwanted distraction.

An outraged Murray defended himself enthusiastically in an impromptu press conference.

Murray also contracted COVID-19, limiting his practice time during camp. And while he likely won’t see any playing time during the preseason, calling plays helps him improve as a player and stay engaged as the Cardinals strive to prepare for an important Week 1 game in home against the Kansas City Chiefs.

“He’s asking me what I like, he’s talking to me about what he’s seeing, his philosophy and how he’s trying to come out and call it,” backup QB McSorley said when asked about their interaction with Murray. “He’s got his headset on, he’s got the game plan in front of him, and he was dialing things in. It was all there.

“So it was great to see him step into that role. I think it was interesting to see him take what he did and didn’t like from last week and get ready to call this week’s game.”

And should Murray get credit for the scores?

“He called him, didn’t he?” McSorley joked. “He’s going to get some credit for that. I went back to the sideline and said, ‘Hey, good calls coach.’

Eric D. Williams has reported on the NFL for more than a decade, covering the Los Angeles Rams for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Chargers for ESPN and the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma News Tribune. Follow him on Twitter at @eric_d_williams.

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