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Kyler Murray, Cardinals

Why Kyler Murray’s hot start could help the Arizona Cardinals win the NFC West

After earning their first home win of the season against the Washington Football Team, the Arizona Cardinals have started the season 2-0 for the first time since 2015 and are looking like one of the hottest teams in football.

Combine that quality play with some pleasant schedule luck, and the Cardinals may not earn their first loss of 2020 in a while.

With their next three games (Home versus Detroit, at Carolina, at New York Jets) against teams that are a combined 0-6, it’s not crazy to say the Cardinals could be 5-0 and leading the NFC West going into their Week 6 matchup in Dallas.

The main reason why the Cardinals have looked good is because second-year quarterback Kyler Murray has been the most dynamic quarterback in the NFL, and head coach Kliff Kinsgbury praised his passer after yesterday’s win.

“I’ve watched that (athleticism) since he was 15 years old,” Kingsbury said, via ESPN. “He is one of the most dangerous people probably in the league when he’s in the open field like that, and he is as elusive as anybody, and that’s a weapon. He’s just got to be able to protect himself, which he does a good job of.”

Murray has sent a message to the rest of the NFC West over the past two games. Against two top-10 defenses in San Francisco and Washington, Murray was still able to throw for a combined 516 passing yards, 158 rushing yards and four total touchdowns.

Those yards on the ground are perhaps the most impressive stat for Murray. He posted 544 rushing yards last season, and through only two games against quality defenses, he has amassed almost 30 percent of his yards from last year already.

Barring a horrific injury or some major rejection, Murray should eclipse last year’s rushing total easily, keeping defenses honest every time the Cardinals roll him out, run play action, or run-pass option packages.

Per NFL.com research, Murray became the first QB in the Super Bowl era to have 150-plus rush yards and 3-plus rush TD over the first two weeks of a season.

The scariest part of all this for Murray’s NFC West foes is that he still has a lot of room to improve in the passing game. He hasn’t been super efficient when throwing the ball, andthrough two weeks, he has a worse passer rating than run-of-the-mill quarterbacks like Derek Carr, Dwayne Haskins and Gardner Minshew.

That rating is almost guaranteed to improve as the season goes along and Murray continues to get more comfortable and build more chemistry with top receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who loves all the wrinkles Murray provides to the Cardinals’ offense.

“He adds a different dynamic to this offense where he can go and score from 20, 30 yards out,” receiver DeAndre Hopkins said via NFL.com. “It’s something that is hard for defenders to be able to attack when you have a quarterback like that that is looking to score and not just getting first downs.

What’s encouraging to see for Cardinals fans is that Murray has an incredible recognition for pass rush, and has mastered the art of not taking sacks by either getting rid of the ball quickly or bouncing from the pocket for positive yardage.

Murray faced pressure from Washington’s talented defensive line on 33 percent of dropbacks, per Pro Football Focus, which is pressure that any defensive coach would be more than proud of.

Thanks to Murray’s pocket awareness and ability to scamper away from pressure, Washington was only able to corral the passer for half the sacks they got in their win last week over the Philadelphia Eagles.

The improvements Murray has made this season have helped the Cardinals become one of the hottest teams in the NFL, and as the young passer continues to improve in the passing game, don’t be surprised if the Cardinals play spoiler in the NFC West, win the division, and maybe even earn a playoff win or two come January.