As the 2019 football season approaches we continue our Cardinals position-by-position series:

Today: Quarterbacks

Previously: Offensive line | Running backs | Receivers and tight ends | Defensive line | Defensive backs | Linebackers | Specialists

If there were any questions remaining as to who will be the starter, there shouldn’t be. It’s going to be rookie Kyler Murray, the resigning Heisman Trophy winner from Oklahoma, whom coach Kliff Kingsbury has called “one of the better dual-threat players to ever play.”

“He was born and bred to do this,” Kingsbury said.

Murray is seen as a potential major game-changer for the Cardinals, who can’t wait to erase any awful memories that may be left over from last season’s dismal 3-13 finish. Veteran players raved about his arm and accuracy as well as his intelligence and his sizzling speed when he pulls the ball down and decides to run.

“He has the ultimate weapon in the exit button,” said wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, referring to Murray’s legs, which the quarterback used to rush for 1,001 yards and 12 touchdowns last year for the Sooners.

Does Murray come with some question marks? Absolutely. One is his lack of size — he’s 5 feet, 10 inches and is the shortest quarterback to be taken in the first round in more than 50 yards. That didn’t hurt him at Oklahoma, though. Murray only had five total passes batted down at the line of scrimmage last season.

It’s been suggested his smallish stature and willingness to scramble out of the pocket could lead to injuries. That’s a fair point, but Murray has yet to suffer any sort of a significant injury. He’s learned how to avoid big hits by using his elusiveness, quickness and smarts.

“You say, ‘OK, well maybe he’s a a smaller quarterback. Is he going to get hurt? Is he fragile?’ ” General Manager Steve Keim said. “He’s never hurt. He’s never in the training room. He’s thickly put together. Again, aside form the fact that’s not 6-foot-4, 6-foot-5, I think the guy is extremely unique.”

Murray’s uncanny speed and lack of ideal height didn’t force him out of the pocket last season at Oklahoma. In fact, Sooners coach Lincoln Riley has said “85 to 90 percent” of Murray’s passes in 2018 came from the pocket. His quick release and ability to throw from different arm angles and find unexpected passing lanes have made the pocket feel like a playground.

Things looked more like a battlefield last year for quarterbacks Sam Bradford and Josh Rosen. Bradford lost the starting job three weeks into the season and ultimately was released. Rosen, the team’s first-round pick in 2018, was traded to the Dolphins on the second day of the draft to make room for Murray. Backup Mike Glennon was cut.

Wins and losses, of course, ultimately will define Murray. As a rookie, his success will be judged on how well he runs the offense, how much he can help improve it from week to week, and how he can handle opposing defenses and keep them honest in Arizona’s expected up-tempo style.

If by chance Murray stumbles badly out of the gate, it will be interesting to see how long Kingsbury decides to stick with him before turning to backup Brett Hundley, the former Chandler High product who in four NFL seasons has just nine career starts to his credit. All nine of those came with the Packers in 2017 after Aaron Rodgers suffered a fractured right collarbone.

Given Murray’s draft status as the No.1 overall pick, it seems doubtful Murray would get benched for any reason during the first half of the season. That could change, but Hundley has to be ready, regardless, and upon signing his one-year deal with the Cardinals in March, he promised he would compete as if he were the starter.

“My job is to compete, try to play and try to be on the field as much as possible,” Hundley said. “It’s to try to get the starting role. … My job is the same. I think that’s what you want. You don’t want somebody to come in and expect to be second or third.  We don’t play this game for that. I don’t.”

Unless the Cardinals elect to bring in another veteran who were to suddenly become available, it’s doubtful the team will keep three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster. They’d like to keep one on the practice squad, however, and that’s likely the best that either Charles Kanoff, the second-year pro from Princeton, or Drew Anderson, the undrafted rookie free agent from Murray State, can hope to expect.

They are the only other two quarterbacks presently on the 90-man roster. Each would have to be exposed to waivers before either could be considered for the practice squad, which is where Kanoff spent most of last season.

But make no mistake, the biggest story to follow all season will be Murray. And he’s ready to be the answer in Arizona.

“As a kid, that’s what you dream of – going to an organization and being that guy, turning the program around, the organization around, winning Super Bowls,” he said. “I don’t shy away from hard work. I feel like I’m not here to lose games or go through the motions. I’m here to change things up.”

Player on the hot seat

Kyler Murray: How could it not be? Murray will be under tremendous pressure to validate the Cardinals’ decision to pick him No. 1 and deal away Rosen to Miami after just one year. Factor that in with Murray learning an NFL offense under a first-year NFL head coach in Kingsbury only doubles the uneasy expectations in and around the franchise. Murray seems to have the right demeanor and work ethic to navigate his way through any mistakes that come his way, and the fact he recognizes that mistakes will be made is a helpful mechanism. Consistency is what he’ll have to seek. The Cardinals didn’t see enough of that from Rosen. Murray will need lots of help along the way, both from coaches and players alike, but this is his team now and his leadership skills will prove to be just as important as the physical ones he possesses.

Potential breakout performer

Kyler Murray: Again, this is really the only choice, isn’t it? As an undersized rookie, Murray can help reshape the NFL landscape, particularly with how talent evaluators view smaller quarterbacks. Aside from predicting that Murray will be the fastest quarterback in the league this season, Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley has said the NFL is evolving and is “getting out of this cookie-cutter mold and opening their eyes to guys who can play.” Murray can make that stick with a productive first year and it’s impossible to put a limit on what he may or may not be able to accomplish. Cleveland’s Baker Mayfield set the rookie record for touchdown passes a year ago with 27 and it’s not unrealistic to think Murray has a shot at that or better. We’ll be just as curious to see how many rushing yards and running touchdowns he can muster.

He said it

“There’s no reason why anyone should have any doubt he can do it on this stage.”

–Larry Fitzgerald on Murray

Have an opinion on the Arizona Cardinals? Reach McManaman at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @azbobbymac. Listen to him live every Tuesday afternoon between 2-5:30 on AM 1060/SB Nation Radio on Calling All Sports with Roc and Manuch and every Wednesday afternoon between 1-4 on Fox Sports 910-AM on The Freaks with Kenny and Crash.

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