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cardinals what to watch: Murray game 2, ojulari playing free, defending stroud

Howard Balzer Avatar
November 18, 2023

The NFL is a turn-the-page league. No matter what happens in any given game, the focus rapidly goes to the next one on the schedule.

Still, it’s been a different week around the Cardinals after the return of quarterback Kyler Murray, who played as if he had never been away.

Of course, as offensive coordinator Drew Petzing said, “Every week in this league presents a new challenge. You’ve got to start over, you’ve got to get back in the lab, you’ve got to make sure you’re putting together a good plan, you’ve got to make sure guys are working on improving in other areas so that focus I don’t think is going to change.”

Looking behind for a moment, Petzing said, We really didn’t hold anything back. I think you saw him do everything that he’s done in his career (and it) showed up at a high level. Off-schedule plays, making plays with his feet, accuracy and arm strength really all of it. We didn’t hold a ton back from a scheme standpoint (and we) don’t expect that to change moving forward.

“Who he is in practice is who you see on Sunday. And it’s impressive. The guy plays the game at a really high level. So it was nice to see those things translate. We’ve seen him every day since he stepped on the field, so it was encouraging to see those in a competitive, high-stress environment to continue to show up.”

The always-confident Murray said, “I expect to go out there and make plays and do my thing. I think there’s a lot of room to grow and improve, but it was a good start and I think we all can get better.”

Murray did acknowledge how it was a fresh start with his return to health and operating Petzing’s offense.

“I will say being in a different offense for the past four years, it was new. It was definitely new,” Murray said. “A lot of (new) terminology and stuff like that. Being out there, seeing a certain coverage and thinking back to like old habits or things that we would do, but at the same time being in the moment and not being able to go to what I would normally go to and having to stay with what we’re doing now.

“There are definitely some old habits that want to creep back in when you’re out there, but no, it’s good breaking those habits and trusting the process. What Drew is coaching and teaching has been great. As far as training camp, no it doesn’t feel like that. Last year, I missed a lot of reps, and I felt a little different. This year, I feel pretty good.”

Immediately after the game, coach Jonathan Gannon said there were some things Murray wasn’t comfortable with and adjustments were made. He explained later in the week it was in the operation of the offense.

“There are things that come up that you have to adjust to, but I think that the coaches and Kyler did a really good job of, ‘OK, here are some scenarios that can go on during the game and if they become issues, we’ve got to fix them and here’s what we’re going to do,’” he said. “They were on the same page with that, and a lot of it was just what he’s getting into his ear, what he’s looking at, and then giving it to the huddle. I knew there was going to be a little bit of that. It’s his first time doing a lot of that stuff and I’m sure as we keep getting going, he’ll get more and more comfortable with how we’re operating.”

On one memorable play, a false start occurred when the entire line moved, but center Hjalte Froholdt didn’t snap the ball.

Asked if that was part of the operational issues he was referencing, Gannon said, “Yeah, that’s one of them.”

Petzing said, “Some of that was on me and my communication with him. I think certainly the more comfort we have together in terms of communication, play-calling, flow of the game, would expect that to continue to improve. It’s certainly an area for me that I’m always trying to get better at. We had a couple hiccups there during the game (and) we were able to overcome most of them. Certainly need to limit them going forward, but our familiarity with each other helps in that area.

“Being in the huddle, calling more plays in and out of the huddle. Certainly, a big part of it; it’s a new language and that’s probably the biggest part of the transition to him. Some of the things his brain probably hasn’t flipped over completely to like, I wanna run this, is this what’s it’s called here. That’s real. It’s like learning going from English to Spanish or Spanish to Italian. You’re all saying the same things a lot of the times, but remembering exactly how to communicate it in the language you’re talking to your teammates, I think at times can be a little tricky. He’s done a really nice job all offseason embracing that and committing to that and working on play-calling, but I think that’s going to be the thing that will continue to improve the most as he just does it more and more.”

Overall, Petzing said the issues weren’t major, saying, “I thought he did a nice job of getting in and out of the huddle and making sure we were to the line with time, understanding what he needed to do at the line of scrimmage to get us in the right play. It was good to see.”

There’s no doubt in Petzing’s mind that the way Murray embraced his role, especially when the season started, helped get him to where he is today.

“He’s done a really nice job of being not the backup quarterback obviously, but being in that role of trying to provide advice, trying to help guys with the game plan, trying to give his two cents when it makes sense and staying engaged and being a part of it,” Petzing said. “I think (it) helped his transition back on the field because a lot of times the two is doing that and the two has to do that and then the two’s playing all of a sudden and if you’re doing that at a high level, you’re gonna be intertwined with your teammates and you’re gonna feel like you’re a part of it so that when you do step back on the field it’s not like Day 1.

“It’s like I’ve been doing this, I’ve been a part of this. I think it’s been fun to see. I think he’s gotten a lot out of it. I know it’s hard when you’re like, I wanna be out there and I know I can be out there and I’m close. But I thought he did a really nice job of that because that’s not always an easy role.”

Both Petzing and Gannon also liked what they saw from Murray in the pocket.

“I thought he did a nice of staying in the pocket at times and extending plays and letting guys work down the field,” Petzing said.

Gannon said he was “very comfortable” with how Murray operated in the pocket and added, “He gets through his reads extremely fast. I didn’t think he was jittery at all. I thought his footwork was phenomenal. Even after one game, having studied him and watched him in practice, I would say he has, if not elite, very, very good pocket presence. He knows where people are around him. He knows when to slide. He knows when to hitch. He knows when to get out of there. It’s hard to sack the guy and obviously that’s an asset for us.”

This week, it will be another test with a road game at Houston.

Playing free

Slowly but surely, rookie outside linebacker BJ Ojulari is making up for lost time.

The Cardinals’ second-round pick (41st overall) was only able to watch during the offseason program and start of training camp because of a knee injury. It’s hard enough for rookies to learn the NFL ropes when they are healthy, much less when they can’t get on the field to work on what’s being taught in the meeting room.

That’s changing. After playing 18.8 percent of the defensive snaps in the first five games of the season, he’s nearly doubled that in the last five at 36.5 percent. It culminated last Sunday when he played 52 percent against the Falcons and tied Zaven Collins with 37 (team high) of the 71 snaps.

Most important, he was productive with two sacks for 17 yards in losses, eight tackles (four unassisted) with two for loss to go with two quarterback hits.

Ojulari credited help he has received from Collins, defensive coordinator Nick Rallis and outside linebackers coach Rob Rodriguez.

“Definitely just feel more comfortable out there. Playing more free,” he said. “Coach Nick comes to me every game and just tells me to play free. Don’t worry about making mistakes. And I think that’s what I did.”

When asked about the philosophy of “playing free,” Rallis said, “That starts with Day 1 when we put everything in. It’s rules, not memorization. You never want guys out there trying to be perfect, whether it’s fits, matches, all that stuff as far as memorizing. I’d rather them (say), ‘Hey, let me go apply my rules so I can go out there and play free.’

“I think what you get with playing free is you get a more violent group, and you get a group that really just flies around and attacks the football. I always say that to BJ specifically because I know he’s a little bit of a perfectionist, and I want him to just let it go. A minus is OK, but a fast, violent player; that’s gonna help us win a game. So yeah, that’s why I always kind of remind him in his head, ‘Go play free.'”

While sacks are featured on highlight reels, Gannon and Rallis made sure to note what else Ojulari did against Atlanta.

“I thought he played violent, physical and he rushed pretty well,” Gannon said. “He was playing the run pretty good too, so that’s what I’m excited about. He (had) drops in coverage and made some plays on perimeter screens where when you draw it up on the board it looks like you’re OK, but then he beats a blocker and makes a play.”

Added Rallis, “Every area of his game is slowly improving throughout the year. This past game, I thought it was his most complete game. Obviously, everyone saw his sacks. He rushed well, but in other aspects in coverage, he did a really good job of getting on the right matches and smothering his coverage. He did really good in the run game; that’s a really good run offense we just played. He did a good job setting edges in the run game. He’s got to continue to build on that, improve on that.”

Ojulari said Rodriguez has been instrumental in his progress, emphasizing, “He’s been a huge part to my development. Since I got here, he’s been in my ear, coaching me very hard, staying on me, doing the little things just so I can be able to be that player he thinks I can become.”

Noting the work he’s done improving his posture, hands and pad level, Ojulari said of Collins, “Staying after practice (with him) and working on coverage drops and understanding more intricate things about the back end (has helped) so I can play fast and more free.”

“It’s one thing for me or Nick or Rob saying something to him,” Gannon said. “But when another player kind of puts it into his verbiage, ‘Here’s what they want, here’s what they’re talking about,’ sometimes it clicks. All of our guys do a really good job of that.”

Rallis said Ojulari did good job with his pad level and leg drive on contact against Atlanta and explained, “BJ’s very naturally gifted. He’s got very long arms so when he gets extension, he gets underneath people and he’s able to play his gap, peak, find the ball, shed and get off and make plays.”

Rodriguez loves to see the growth of Ojulari and the entire room, highlighted by Collins who is playing on the outside for the first time. The camaraderie among a group competing for snaps is special.

The coach said, “When you watch BJ get that second sack, three dudes fell off of that sack and they were all just as excited for him that they would be for their own sack. That’s rare, so that was really cool to watch.”

Numbers to know: Ojulari is one of five NFL rookies to have at least two sacks in a game this season. A sixth, Cardinals defensive lineman Dante Stills had 1.5 against the Ravens, the game where Ojulari had the first sack of his career.

Ojulari (3.0) and Stills (2.5) rank fourth and fifth in the league in sacks by rookies. Ahead of them are Byron Young, Rams, 5.0; Jalen Carter, Eagles, 4.0; and Tuli Tuipulotu, Chargers, 4.0.

In the last three games, Ojulari has 3.0 sacks, three QB hits and 14 tackles with three for loss.

McBride steps up

If you’re looking for height in the Cardinals wide-receiver corps, you won’t find much.

The tallest are Michael Wilson and Zach Pascal, who are both 6-foot-2. Pascal (hamstring) has already been ruled out Sunday, while Wilson (shoulder) was added to the injury report Friday and is questionable.

It’s not known if it’s to the same shoulder that sidelined him for the Week 9 game against Cleveland or if it’s a new injury.

If Wilson is inactive Sunday or is compromised, that leaves three wideouts that are shorter than 5-foot-10 quarterback Kyler Murray: Hollywood Brown, 5-foot-9 along with Rondale Moore and Greg Dortch, who are both 5-foot-7.

That’s what makes 6-foot-4 tight end Trey McBride so important to the offense. Through nine games, 19 tight ends have caught 63 balls against the Texans for 553 yards and four touchdowns.

After McBride had eight catches for 131 yards in last Sunday’s win over the Falcons, Murray said it was about “just good matchups,” and added, “I don’t think there’s that many safeties in the league that can probably guard him. He’s getting it rolling, he’s getting his confidence up and he’s got all the ability in the world, so I’m happy to see him do what he’s doing.”

McBride also helped clear the way for Murray’s 6-yard touchdown run on third-and-1 in the second quarter.

“It was a read play, he was reading the defensive end in front of me and I knew that we needed one yard and I was like, ‘There’s no way he’s going to hand this off, he’s taking it himself,’” McBride said. “I knew I just had to make a block for him, he’s going to make a guy miss and I trusted him to do that. I knew I had to cover the guy up and he’s going to make a play. That’s exactly what I did and he got in the end zone, so that was a lot of fun as well.”

While being a complete tight end is important, expect Murray to lean on him as a receiver even more.

The 131 yards were the most by a Cardinals tight end in 34 years and his 10 receptions (for 95 yards) against the Ravens in Week 8, were the most ever by a tight end in a game for the Cardinals. His 18 receptions for 226 yards (12.6 average) in those two games are a large chunk of his season totals of 36-418-11.6-1.

Gannon is enthused by what he has seen, especially against Atlanta.

“Catch-and-run, he made some huge plays,” the coach said. The guy was breaking tackles. I juiced him on the first one. I didn’t like his ball security and he came off and he knew it before I even told him.”

Murray even accepted responsibility for the one interception he had when he was expecting McBride to sit on a route.

“It was miscommunication,” Murray said. “Something we haven’t worked (a lot with) in cover two. The middle of the field was vacated and I felt like he could have sat down, but that’s not something that we had practiced or worked on, so he was right to keep running. That was my fault.”

Offensive coordinator Drew Petzing said he expects McBride to keep getting better.

“To me, he’s a complete tight end,” Petzing said. “He’s worked really hard over the last couple months to be that guy, to put himself in that position. Certainly, in the pass game, the size, the speed, the length, the hands, you saw it all on display on Sunday.

“But really for us, it’s something we’ve seen in terms of the growth of his game in general, in all areas — run blocking, pass protection, effort. Really pleased with the way he’s playing.”

Another running back arrives

It was a whirlwind this past week for running back Michael Carter, but similar situations happen with players each week in the NFL.

Placed on waivers by the Jets on Tuesday, he was awarded to the Cardinals Wednesday and was on a plane to Arizona by around 7 p.m. ET with arrival close to midnight thanks to a plane delay. Carter was up at 5 a.m. Thursday to take a physical and then start becoming immersed in the offense, while meeting his new teammates.

Jets coach Robert Saleh told the media Wednesday, “We felt like it wouldn’t be fair for him to just sit there and rot on the bench.”

“I am grateful to be here,” Carter said later Thursday. “To have a chance at a fresh start and feel appreciated. I think we all chase that and crave that.”

There was an undercurrent of displeasure with the situation in New York where he was a fourth-round pick in 2021 and played 16 games last season, starting 10. This year, he was behind Breece Hall and Dalvon Cook on the depth chart along with word the Jets are impressed with this year’s fifth-round pick, Israel Abanikanda.

When asked about being shocked by being cut, Carter would only say, “Yes and no. There is a lot that went on behind the scenes that led me to not be surprised. Those are my brothers back in New York and they know that. What is understood doesn’t need to be explained, and they got my number.”

Asked if he requested his release, Carter said, “I’d rather not answer that question.”

Apparently, no need to.

Carter said he wants to be able to contribute “as soon as possible,” and added, “I’m ready. I’ve played every game this year. Yesterday was my first day not practicing in my whole life probably.”

Gannon described Carter as a “dual-threat guy. Happy to have him here. He’s picking it up as quick as he can.”

Carter was quickly impressed with Gannon and being around the team.

“I talked to him yesterday and I talked to him again this morning,” he said. “He brings a lot of energy, like a lot. That’s something I can appreciate because I’m the same way. It starts with him, and it trickles down. It’s a positive vibe around here and I really appreciate that.”

As for the running backs room, he said, “Seems like a really close group and I think that starts with coach. He leads a strong group. Ever since I started talking to the guys, it’s been like bro-love. Some rooms in the league, it wasn’t like this in New York, but I have friends that have been in the league where it’s not like that. Just 100 percent me-mugs; I don’t rock with you. I’m not helping you do anything. I don’t think it’s like that here so that’s something I can appreciate because that is (what it was like) where I came from (in) New York.

“I’m very competitive and a lot of the guys in the locker room I relate to them because they’re like that, too. That’s why I’m so excited to get going.”

Said linebacker Kyzir White, “We’re trying to build a great culture over here and we want everybody to feel welcome. Mike is new, so hopefully he’s feeling comfortable. He’s a great player and he’s going to contribute.”

Another anniversary

This will be the second straight Sunday that the date has significance.

Last week, on Nov. 12, exactly 11 months after suffering a torn ACL and meniscus against the New England Patriots, Murray returned to the field and led the team to a 25-23 victory over the Atlanta Falcons.

Meanwhile, when safety Budda Baker starts the 89th game of his career Sunday (Nov. 19), it will be on the sixth anniversary of the first start he made as a rookie in 2017 against the Texans in Houston.

Baker didn’t hesitate when asked about the game earlier this week.

“I remember it very well actually,” he said. “I know the week before we played the Seahawks at home and Tyvon Branch got injured and I was the next man up.”

Branch had suffered a torn ACL in that game against Seattle on a Thursday night and it ended up being the final game of his NFL career.

Baker also said, “I just remember the coaches at the time, BA (Bruce Arians) and all those coaches telling me, ‘Anyone can have a great first game, what’s going to happen when you start for the first time? How are you going to play.’ I took that serious.”

He sure did.

Despite the 31-21 loss that day, Baker’s stat line was monstrous: 12 tackles (10 unassisted) with one for loss, one sack for minus-7 yards, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and two passes defensed.

The two teams have played five times since the Texans were an expansion team in 2002 and the Cardinals lead 3-2 with all games being won by the home team.

Baker and Co. aim to stop that streak Sunday and when it was suggested it might take a similar game by him, he said, “That’s the plan.”

Moving pieces

That’s often the case on special teams and it’s been that way for the Cardinals this season.

Of the top five special-teams tacklers, three won’t play this week and one other is questionable.

Safety Joey Blount and linebacker Ezekiel Turner are tied for the team lead with eight tackles and each have four unassisted. Turner didn’t play against the Falcons because of a hamstring injury and is questionable for Sunday’s game. Blount suffered a knee injury against Atlanta and won’t play.

Pascal, with seven tackles (five unassisted), is also out Sunday because of a hamstring injury from the Falcons game. Linebacker Victor Dimukeje (four tackles, three unassisted) is healthy, but cornerback Bobby Price, who has the same numbers as Dimukeje, is on reserve/injured.

Special-teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers and assistant Sam Sewell are often forced to make weekly adjustments.

Gannon said, “That’s kinda the life of a special-teams coordinator when the roster starts moving around. But I think the key piece to those two guys, what they’ve done a really good job (of), is bringing guys along that maybe their roles have to change because of injury or offense or defense where they’ve been coaching those guys when they weren’t even playing. And developing those guys before they were playing.

“Then you don’t feel as bad when this guy has to go in; well, he’s got six weeks of banked reps on that so we feel good about it. That’s definitely a weapon for us, that phase, and they’ve impacted the game for us.”

Kicking coincidence

The kicker for the Texans Sunday is familiar to the Cardinals, although he wasn’t here very long in 2022 and his departure didn’t disappoint the fan base.

Matt Ammendola was signed by the Cardinals because of an injury to Matt Prater shortly after he had been cut by the Chiefs. Kansas City kicker Harrison Butker suffered a foot injury in Week 1 in State Farm Stadium when he slipped on a kickoff.

In his second game with the Chiefs, Ammendola missed an extra point and a 34-yard field-goal attempt with 8:38 remaining in the game that would have given them a 20-13 lead. The Colts won the game 20-17 and Ammendola was cut the following day.

Eight days later, he was signed to the Cardinals practice squad. Against the Eagles in Week 5, he missed a 43-yard attempt that would have tied the game with 17 seconds remaining, yet was signed to the active roster three days later. In the following week’s 19-9 loss to Seattle, he missed an extra point and was waived the next day.

Ammendola was on the Packers’ practice squad for Week 18, but after his contract expired, he went unsigned for all of 2023 until the Texans signed him to the practice squad on Nov. 7 because of a quad injury that landed Ka’imi Fairbairn on reserve/injured.

All Ammendola did last week was be successful on three extra points and three field goals, including the walkoff 38-yarder that won the game over Cincinnati.

And now he will be kicking against the Cardinals Sunday.

Rodgers said, “He is very, very talented. All players improve from their experiences. He’s building on that experience with us and I look forward to playing against him.”

Streaking Stroud

Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud is on a path to being the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and some have prematurely mentioned him as a potential MVP candidate after he passed for 826 yards and six touchdowns in two consecutive wins over Tampa Bay (39-37) and Cincinnati (30-27).

Against the Bucs, he completed 30-of-42 passes for 470 yards and five scores.

The mature Stroud tries not to pay attention to the outside noise, saying, “This game is a process, and I know every week I have to bring it. And I know I’m not being treated as a rookie anymore, so people are bringing their A-game because they want to knock me off or whatever they think.”

He also knows in the week-to-week league that is the NFL, narratives can change very quickly.

Asked about the MVP chatter this week, he said, “It’s been cool to be able to be in the talk, but just like they love me this week, they’ll hate me the next. So, I don’t try to look at that stuff. I try to stay even-keeled and just stay on the straight and narrow, and just work really hard and make my teammates around me better.”

How fast can things change? Prior to completing 53 of 81 passes the last two games, Stroud was 16-for-24 for 140 yards in an Oct. 29 loss to Carolina (15-13), the Panthers’ only win of the season.

The Cardinals have obviously noticed, while surely examining the tape of the Carolina game as much as the last two.

Gannon said, “He doesn’t look like a rookie out there, I know that. His process is extremely fast, very accurate, and a quick release. They are the top one or two in explosive passes in the NFL right now, and explosives come up on all downs, mixed downs, and third-and-known pass. He’s doing a really good job; that’s why they’re above .500 (5-4) and right in the playoff hunt. He jumped off the tape.”

Baker said Stroud is “making all the correct checks, making all the correct adjustments, getting that ball out whether it’s intermediate, option routes or even deep balls.”

Murray said, “I love it. To see what he’s doing, man, it’s like I said, I love it. For a fellow African-American quarterback to be doing what he’s doing at this level, especially in his rookie year, it’s impressive. If you love the game, if you really love the art and the detail of the position; he’s playing it the right way. He’s obviously leading those guys. They believe in him, and they trust him so I’m proud of him. I’m excited to see his career.”

Rallis said Stroud is deserving of being in the MVP talk and said, “You can see this guy’s gonna be a very good player for a long time in this league. He has the ability to put the ball accurately where it needs to be continuously. He’s got great arm strength, he can get the ball out on time. If it’s not there, he knows how to get to his checkdown. He knows when it’s time to throw it away, he doesn’t put the ball at harm’s risk. If he needs to escape and improvise, he can do that and still keep his eyes down the field and make plays.

“He doesn’t look anything like a rookie quarterback. He looks like a veteran that knows where he wants to go with the football and when he knows where he wants to go with the football, he puts it right on the money.”

Rallis concluded, “Before I turned on the tape, I was just kinda hearing the noise, but it’s real.”

Currently, Stroud leads all quarterbacks with 291.8 yards per game and only two interceptions, and is ranked third in average yards per attempt (8.3) and sixth in passer rating (101.0).

Other notable numbers: Stroud’s 2,626 yards is the third-most by a rookie quarterback in his first nine games. He can enter the top five Sunday of yards by a quarterback in their first 10 games topped by Patrick Mahomes 3,185; Justin Herbert 3,015; Andrew Luck 2,965; Cam Newton 2,885; and Joe Burrow 2,688.

He has three games with at least 350 passing yards, which is tied for the most by a rookie in league history.

Gannon is impressed with the job done by first-year coordinator Bobby Slowik, who was with the 49ers the previous three seasons and has put his own spin on the Texans offense he implemented.

They’ve got some different players, and he’s kind of tailor fitted it,” Gannon said. “I thought that they made some adjustments from early in the year to where they’re at now. He calls it aggressively and keeps the defenses off balance with different play-types and different personnel groupings.”

With that, they are excellent at scheming players open, which also leads to top numbers in yards after the catch and there’s a deep group of skill players around Stroud.

The Texans will be without running back Dameon Pierce (ankle) Sunday, but Devin Singletary rushed for 150 yards on 30 carries last week. Wide receiver Noah Brown has 13 catches for 325 yards the last two weeks, but is questionable because of a knee injury.

Gannon said slowing down the Texans will be linked to tackling. He said,We have to tackle because in the pass and run game they break a lot of tackles. They break down your leverage, so we’ve got to do a good job with leveraging the football and getting more than one hat on the ball.”

On defense, Gannon described the Texans as “fast, physical and violent,” but they will be without linebackers Denzel Perryman (suspension) and rookie Henry To’oTo’o (concussion) and safety Jimmie Ward (hamstring). Defensive end Will Anderson Jr. (knee) is questionable.

Linebacker Henry To’oTo’o leads the team with 52 tackles, Perryman is third with 41 and Ward is tied for fifth with 35. Defensive end Jonathan Greenard will present a challenge with his 10 tackles for loss and seven sacks for 55.5 yards in losses.

Former Cardinals defensive line coach Matt Burke is the team’s defensive coordinator working for coach DeMeco Ryans, who was previously San Francisco’s coordinator.

DeMeco’s obviously done a really good job in San Fran (and then) coming over there,” Gannon said. “You see it show up. The scheme’s extremely sound. They don’t give you a lot of air. There’s not a lot of catch-and-run. They fit the run very sound. They tackle well. They play fast, their technique is fundamentally very sound, and they make you earn everything.”

Roster moves

The Cardinals signed wide receiver Andre Baccellia (5-foot-10) from the practice squad Saturday, elevated defensive lineman Phil Hoskins and Tony Jones Jr. from the practice squad and waived safety Qwuantrezz Knight.

The Baccellia addition is likely related to the Wilson shoulder injury. The defensive line will be without Jonathan Ledbetter (shoulder) and possibly Kevin Strong (knee), who is questionable.

The Jones elevation likely means Carter won’t be active. Extra running backs are usually needed for special teams and Carter has played only 21 snaps on those units in 39 games with the Jets,

The quotebook

Carter, who had been in Arizona for about 13 hours, on Murray: “He can spin it. Just from what I saw and what I know to be true about him, he’s a dynamic football player. There’s nobody in the league like him. To be able to do what he does, how he does it and the way he makes it look is really a testament to how hard he works and the God-given talent. He’s generational. I think his presence at practice makes a difference. I’m excited to get going.”

Texans coach DeMeco Ryans on Murray: “He has to be the fastest quarterback in the NFL. The speed is real, and when he’s healthy, it’s a problem. He has the ability – most guys they step up in the pocket – but he has that ability to retreat back in the pocket and still circle the defense. You talk about elusiveness, you talk about the speed – just a dynamic athlete.”

Petzing on what went through his mind on Murray’s first scramble: “At no point during the game did it cross my mind, which is funny because in here last week in my mind it was going to, like you would think about it a lot more. But once the lights go on and you’re calling plays, you’re in the flow of the game, it really at no point crossed my mind. Until somebody mentioned it after the game, like, ‘Oh yeah, he did just come off an ACL.’ It sure didn’t look like it when he was out there.”

General manager Monti Ossenfort on ArizonaSports 98.7 when asked about what has been said about Murray in the past: “I’ve heard all those things. I really can’t speak on that. I wasn’t here. I wasn’t around Kyler to see what he was like, what he wasn’t like. All I can speak on is that since the day that I got here, all I’ve seen is a guy who’s focused, dedicated, done everything we’ve asked him to do and more.

“Going way back into the spring when he couldn’t do everything physically, the things he could do were mental. To see him really jump feet-first and attack the mental part of the game during that time and continuing to build on that during training camp and the season, Kyler’s been great. Kyler’s been great from the start, from when I got here.”

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