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How Kyler Murray runs and how the Seahawks can contain him

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at New York Jets Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Kyler Murray is indestructible. Or he thinks he is. He runs with the freedom of inexperience. As Orson Welles said to Dick Cavett in explaining how he was able to make Citizen Kane at 26: “You’re sure it’s gotta be you’re good and you’re great. It’s ignorance. There’s no authority in the world like it.” Murray’s talent as a scrambler is completely uninhibited by fear of injury or failure.

Apart from the hamstring strain he suffered in last season’s matchup with Seattle, and an inguinal hip strain he suffered as a freshman in 2015, I could find no history of injury for Murray. He’s free and may he stay free as long as possible. I’m a Seahawks fan but I never root for injury. That’s rooting for the grim reaper. He may momentarily help but he’s never an ally. Here’s hoping the Seahawks beat the best team Arizona is capable of being.

That means Murray’s gonna scramble. A lot. Murray is Ronald Jones’ equal in total rushing DYAR. Jones leads among backs. Murray leads among quarterbacks. Murray’s 149 rushing DYAR surpasses the rushing DYAR of Sam Darnold, Carson Wentz and Russell Wilson, the next three most valuable scramblers in order.

Next Gen Stats chart some games, making it essentially useless for analysis. The latest chart of Murray’s rushing I could find is from week 9 of 2019. But, heck, I can spend an hour* or so and make a chart of Murray’s rushing. I’ve got The Beat, Deerhunter, Brian Eno, Drive Like Jehu and a bunch of other awesome shit on this computer. Let’s make some charts!

(*many hours)

These are inexact. First let’s make a blank chart. Thank you, Taysom Hill, I’m almost there already.

But on the drummer’s face, there is a look of dread

He drums away 400 years of dread

Itchy finger, finger, trigger, trigger

Faster, faster, faster, faster

Some things you lose

Some things you give away

First some comments about the process, then I’m gonna eat something cuz I’m starving, and finally some analysis.

I removed kneel downs. The paths are simplified because human memory is not so good at remembering a million little jab steps and jukes. Mostly I attempted to replicate the overall path of Murray’s runs with special attention to his prevailing direction and the curvature of his path. The puts a lot little errors into the data. Also, I did not account for which side of the hash marks the play started on. Instead I started every play from approximately the middle of the hash marks. That shouldn’t matter much for purposes of analysis. But this is an approximation. I can’t emphasize that enough.

Now, a sandwich.

Actually I ate a hard boiled egg.

There are four basic types of Murray runs. Most common are slashing draw plays and looping sweeps which are scrambles. Less common are looping sweeps out of bootleg, and miscellaneous other gadget runs.

Murray is very averse to contact. Most of his runs end with Murray out of bounds, in the end zone, or having given himself up. That’s probably wise. He likes to stretch his runs horizontally until he finds space up the sideline. However, his big runs are a product of pushing the defense toward the sideline and creating space in the interior. There’s really no quick fix to stopping him. He’s very willing to drop back very deep to escape containment.

Though he doesn’t have what would typically be called moves, he makes even seemingly unwise runs work. Murray is very quick running at angles, and though the tool I used to draw his runs exaggerates the fact, most of his runs are indeed looping like that. He tends to loop out toward space, press the advantage by running straight ahead, and loop out toward space again if necessary.

In general he will not run twice in a row or even twice in the course of a few plays unless the first run was short and came with little or no contact. Murray has something like a super or turbo meter which is exhausted through use. In that way, though he is most dangerous when scrambling, he is perhaps least dangerous following a scramble.

Despite what I wrote above, it does seem like Murray is proactively cautious. He is, by frame, one of the smallest quarterbacks to ever play. That doesn’t mean he is injury prone, but it could be said that relative to every other player on offense and defense, every quarterback is injury prone. Even colossal roughneck types like Ben Roethlisberger and Cam Newton have proven incapable of enduring constant punishment. Murray balances an overall conservative approach with impressive courage in tight spaces. But, again, that just might be youth and inexperience.

His ability to escape containment through looping scrambles, many of which drop nine or more yards behind the line of scrimmage, makes it all but impossible to scheme away his ability to run. For Seattle to contain Murray, it needs to field a team which is laterally quick and assignment correct. Without Jamal Adams, that will put a lot of stress on Jordyn Brooks and Ugo Amadi. I wish ‘em luck. It’s a helluva task but it’s a helluva an opportunity too.