Skip to main content
Philadelphia Eagles

Philadelphia Eagles News

Spadaro: Kyler Murray presents a unique challenge for the defense

Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro
Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro

All week now, they've been watching film and seeing Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray do things that most just don't do: Buying time in the backfield with his sense of anticipation and incredible escapability; darting away from gasping defenders in the open field to make a back-breaking gain on the ground; zipping passes from unconventional angles into the tiniest of windows to complete throws down the field.

Murray is the kind of quarterback defenses don't see on a weekly basis, and that makes it all the more difficult to prepare for his talents, and that's why the Eagles have the utmost respect for what they're going to face on Sunday at State Farm Stadium. His ability to break a defense's back with his off-schedule talents separates Murray from most in the NFL.

"All the coaching details that go into that with off-schedule plays, we've got to be on it and understand that those are going to come up in the game and what he likes to do when he tries to make off-schedule plays, and he can make them," Defensive Coordinator Jonathan Gannon said. "He has a very unique skill set. He's very dangerous. He's got arm talent. He runs around. He's not like a stick-and-cut guy ... He's not afraid to give ground and lose 20 yards from the line of scrimmage and runs around and finds open people. It's hard to cover for a long time.

"So, we've got to have a good plan and we've got to execute it and we've got to stay disciplined. Our eyes got to be right. We've got to rush as a unit. We've got to cover as a unit. It's going to take all 11 out there to slow this guy down."

Murray is the focal point of an Arizona offense that has struggled to find consistency or explosiveness this season – Arizona has just one passing play of 30 yards in its 2-2 start and Murray is averaging 5.7 yards per passing attempt. The Cardinals have been without star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who was suspended for six games by the NFL for violating the league's drug policy, they've battled injuries along the offensive line, and they have scored only 16 points in the first half of four games – all in the second quarter.

When you're playing from behind a lot, it impacts everything. Here is a number to consider: Murray has thrown 173 passes and is on track to throw the most passes in a single season in NFL history (735 in 17 games).

"It doesn't matter what they've done because every week is a new week and, as we look at things, they have a lot of pieces, a lot of weapons," said defensive end Brandon Graham, who is very well aware that the only time the Eagles played against Murray, late in the 2020 season, he completed 27 of 36 passes for 406 yards and three touchdowns and added another score on the ground in a 33-26 Arizona win. "It starts with that guy back there (Murray). He just isn't like other quarterbacks."

That said, the Eagles' defense enters Sunday playing outstanding football and understanding that the best approach is to do what this D does best and that's play good, solid, physical, and fundamentally sound D.

Sometimes that's easier said than done against someone like Murray, but that's the intent going in.

"It's really just about us being us and going out there and playing to our standard and playing ball the way we've been playing these last few weeks," said linebacker Haason Reddick, the reigning NFC Defensive player of the Week. "We know who Kyler is. We know he can make plays with his feet and that he has great arm talent, which is undeniable. We just need to be ourselves and continue to do what we do and do it well.

"And that's all. We need to continue to be the dominant defense that we've been and play the same way we've been playing."

Here's the plan, then: Play Eagles defense. Stay disciplined. Be physical. Be smart and stay within the team structure and keep Arizona – a team that has seven consecutive losses at home dating back to the 2021 season – scuffling offensively.

This defense has lined up across from Jalen Hurts since the spring at the NovaCare Complex and they've seen Hurts make plays off-schedule and use his athleticism to break open a play. He's worn the red practice jersey, so obviously the Eagles haven't hit Hurts, but they have experienced his extraordinary speed and running ability and his in- and out-of-pocket throwing skills. That sense of familiarity – "this isn't their first rodeo," said Head Coach Nick Sirianni on Sunday – should help on Sunday.

They will be ready to go against the unique game Murray brings to the table. It's just another week, another offense, and another challenge for a defense that is only concerned about itself and making progress week over week.

Related Content