Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray has been in Trevor Lawrence’s shoes.
Well, not his actual shoes. Murray likely would have a tough time getting around in Lawrence’s size-14 cleats.
But two years ago, Murray walked the path Lawrence is just beginning. Both were successful college quarterbacks who were selected No. 1 overall in the NFL Draft. And they both landed on teams with former college coaches making their NFL debuts.
Those paths cross Sunday, September 26, as Murray leads the unbeaten Cardinals into Jacksonville, Florida, to take on Lawrence and the winless Jaguars. The game kicks off at 10 a.m. MST at TIAA Bank Field.
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Beware the Deep Ball
Physically, the two quarterbacks are polar opposites. Lawrence looks the part of the prototypical NFL quarterback (6-foot-6, 213 pounds), while Murray (5-10, 207) is breaking the mold at the position.
Both have strong arms and are accurate in the passing game, though Murray is more mobile and can frustrate defenses when he decides to take off and run. Lawrence can run too, according to Cardinals linebacker Isaiah Simmons, who played with the QB at Clemson.
Arizona defensive coordinator Vance Joseph called Lawrence a “great young quarterback” who “can make every throw.”
“When you watch this guy play, the deep ball is the best ball he throws,” Joseph said. “It’s been on point, he’s accurate with it, and they’ve hit it every single week.”
Through two games, Lawrence has completed five passes of 20+ yards, tied for fourth-most this season. Murray tops that list with nine.
It’s been an up and down start to the season for Lawrence, 21, who threw for 332 yards and three touchdowns in Week 1 against the Houston Texans, the fourth-most passing yards by a rookie quarterback making their first NFL start. But he also threw three interceptions in the 37-21 road loss.
The Jaguars rookie threw two more picks in Week 2 against the Denver Broncos, tying him for the most INTs this season (five) with New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson.
Lawrence also struggled to connect with his receivers against the Broncos, completing just 14 of 33 passes for 118 yards and a touchdown. He also had 21 rushing yards on two carries in the 23-13 home loss to Denver.
According to PFF, Lawrence ranks 33rd among quarterbacks this season with a 47.8 offensive grade through his first two games. Murray, meanwhile, is fifth at 84.8.
Kliff Kingsbury: Lawrence ‘Has It All’
Despite the inconsistent start, Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury called Lawrence “one of the top prospects to come out in 20 years.”
“He has it all,” said Kingsbury, 42, the former Texas Tech coach who made the jump to the NFL in 2019. “There’s not a flaw in his game. He’s just got to continue to get used to a new system and the speed of the game at this level.”
Arizona general manager Steve Keim said he scouted Lawrence and spent a lot of time with the Clemson quarterback, thanks to a connection on the Tigers’ coaching staff.
“There’s no doubt that the kid is a special player and is going to be a special player in this league,” Keim told Arizona Sports’ “Burns & Gambo.” “He’s extremely talented, he’s got all the skills, and he’s a tremendous worker.”
Lawrence is a big reason longtime college coach Urban Meyer decided to leave his in-studio analyst job with FOX and accept his first NFL coaching position.
“I love Trevor Lawrence. I love everything about the guy,” said Meyer, 57, who won three national titles as a college coach.
Overall, he has the third-highest winning percentage (.854) in college football history, including national championship seasons at Florida (2006 and 2008) and Ohio State (2014).
“That kid is unbelievable to coach,” Meyer added. “Everything about the guy is an A-plus.”
Running Backs Not Helping Rookie QB
The Jaguars (0-2) have made things more difficult on Lawrence by failing to establish a running game in their first two games of the season, putting pressure on the rookie QB to make plays in the passing game.
Jacksonville running backs James Robinson and Carlos Hyde have combined for just 123 rushing yards this season, averaging 36 and 25.5 yards per game, respectively.
After limiting Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry to just 58 yards on 17 carries in the season-opener, the Cardinals (2-0) struggled to slow down Vikings running back Dalvin Cook early in Week 2. Cook rushed for 131 yards — including 96 in the first half — on 22 carries.
Joseph said the Cardinals will need to do a better job against the run early in Jacksonville if they hope to improve to 3-0 for the first time since 2015. That was also the last year Arizona made the playoffs.
“It starts with stopping the run,” he said.