Through Week 5, Cardinals rookie quarterback Kyler Murray is firmly in second place amongst quarterbacks in rushing yards with 206. One week and 93 yards ago, he was a two-yard loss from being in fifth place.
In all honesty, Murray should’ve had much more than just 113 yards on the ground in the first four games of his career. The Cardinals’ offense is built on a foundation of 10 personnel with ample opportunity for the offense to switch to empty looks out of the huddle. The variation of the “Air Raid” scheme they use forces defenses to play man across the board and creates vacancies in the middle of the field.
Such opportunities came up a couple of times against the Bengals on Sunday, and Murray took advantage of them.
Of course it wasn’t entirely Murray’s scrambling ability that got him nearly 100 yards with his feet. As our own Matt Minich foretold last week, zone reads were prevalent in the Cardinals’ game plan against the Bengals’ sluggish front six.
The linebackers in Cincinnati are the regular whipping boys around these parts, but could the defensive line done more to prevent Murray from torching the defense on the ground? Let’s look at a few plays to find out.
It wasn’t all bad for the defense in containing Murray. Five of these runs were deemed successful, but four of his other five runs were not. Shawn Williams and Nick Vigil each made an impressive play in stopping Murray from creating damage in the open field, along with a couple other team effort stops.
Unfortunately, even with Carl Lawson and Ryan Glasgow back in the rotation, the Bengals’ defensive line was almost shutout from making any contact with Murray behind the line of scrimmage. Geno Atkins registered two hits on the rookie quarterback, and Sam Hubbard sacked Murray on a broken pocket.
After not even touching Mason Rudolph last week, this unit is going through a major dry spell, and it’s probably not going to get much better in these next two weeks. The next two quarterbacks they face, Lamar Jackson and Gardner Minshew II, bring creativity and excitement as passers. It’ll be hard to rattle them or bring them down all together.
Specifically with Jackson, they have ample amounts of tape on him now compared to when they faced him last year. Looking at their own mistakes from this game is a great place to start when game-planning for next week, even though their personnel won’t be enough to completely stop him as a runner.
Switching gears towards the offensive side of the ball, the offensive line did a much better job holding up in pass protection compared to last week. The Cardinals are not the Steelers when it comes to defensive line talent, but they still have guys who can win one-on-ones, specifically Chandler Jones.
Jones’ main matchup, Andre Smith, left the game at the top of the third quarter with an ankle injury, which forced John Jerry to replace him for the rest of the game. This was the second time Jerry came on in relief for Smith and just like last time in Week 2, Jerry looked like a considerable upgrade. Watching his sets in comparison to Bobby Hart, I had to breakdown the differences between the two.
Sure enough, Jerry was Pro Football Focus’ highest-graded left tackle from Week 5, and the film more than backs that up.
It’s simply incredible that this is the same player who was beaten like a drum in Week 4 of the preseason at the same position. Jerry would’ve likely been a free agent at this time if O’Shea Dugas didn’t get hurt. Now, he’s looking like the Bengals’ best option at the position until Cordy Glenn (or at this rate, Jonah Williams) returns to the field.
Ever since Glenn suffered his career-threatening concussion back in August, the Bengals have been operating without a true left tackle. It’d be unrealistic to expect performances like this from Jerry week after week, but it’s going to be hard to keep him out of the conversation if he replicates this in the future.