OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Kliff Kingsbury isn’t shy about expressing where he thinks the NFL is headed.
More specifically, the Arizona Cardinals head coach is not shy about expressing where he thinks the two quarterbacks in Sunday’s game can take the league.
“In my opinion, [Lamar Jackson and Kyler Murray are] two guys that can be the future of the sport, if they continue to progress and put in the work and the time,” Kingsbury said. “They have all the tools. Their entire lives, all they’ve ever done is won and been the best player on the field. That’s the way it can go if they’re willing to put in the work.”
Kingsbury is in his first season as head coach of the Cardinals, brought in to help bring a new, exciting offense in the Air Raid. To do just that, the Cardinals brought in the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, Murray, with No. 1 overall pick.
Together, they’re looking to bring a new style of offense to the NFL, full time. With Murray’s skillset, they’re hoping for immediate success.
“He is a unique talent,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “He’s very creative as a football player. He has excellent arm talent. Obviously, he can move around and escape in the pocket, very good vision. He’s been in that offense, really, his whole career, so he’s very effective with that offense. That’s what we have to deal with this game.”
Murray’s speed is what makes him stand out from the crowd, especially considering his relative lack of size. Murray stood just 5-foot-10 at the NFL Combine in the spring, but his mobility outside the pocket is what makes things challenging for the Ravens defense.
“His accuracy throwing on the run,” Ravens defensive coordinator Don Martindale said of Murray’s biggest asset. “There’s the old school approach of keeping him in the pocket, which everybody wants to do, which we want to do. The thing that stands out is when he wants to get out of the pocket, he’s getting out of the pocket.”
One thing that’s helped the Ravens, however, is seeing their own quarterback in practice.
Jackson’s speed, and throwing on the run, has been good practice as to what Sunday’s game could look like. Jackson is a natural player to practice against in preparation for Murray.
“Yes, we have one of the best quarterbacks in the league,” linebacker Patrick Onwuasor said. “Going against Lamar every day in practice, it sets us up for this game perfectly. He’s a mobile quarterback as well. He can throw the ball deep. He can get out of the pocket. So, going against Lamar puts us in a perfect position.”
But the Murray and Jackson comparisons don’t end there. They both were high school quarterbacks in the class of 2015 and have been aware of each other since they were in high school.
“Actually, I’ve been telling all the other guys, when I came out of high school, he was the No. 1 dual-threat [quarterback], so I’ve been hearing about him ever since high school,” Jackson said. “He’s a great quarterback – fast, can throw the ball, a former baseball player. So, he’s a great guy.”
Not everyone, however, thinks the two are very similar.
“I think they’re different,” safety Earl Thomas said. “With Murray, sometimes he can’t see over the line. He’s so small and it’s very difficult. You got those big giants in front of you, that kind of hinders him sometimes. But both of them are very dynamic with their legs, of course.”
Whether or not they’re similar or different, the two will be the focus of Sunday’s game in what they can do with their respective offenses.
With the Cardinals Air Raid attack, Ravens fans will see a lot of passes. And shutting down the offense begins with Murray.
“We know he can scramble,” Thomas said of Murray. “Whether he looks to scramble to pass, I feel like that’s what he does. I feel like he’s looking to get down. When he got in trouble, he found Larry on some big plays... but other than that, I like our matchups.”
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