Who will be league’s next must-see player?
SportsPulse: Lorenzo had another solid week going 2-1 but he’s still searching for the perfect weekend. He’s back to provide his best 3 bets for Week 3.
The Week 3 edition of “Monday Night Football” will feature one of the most anticipated matchups of the NFL season.
The Kansas City Chiefs and Baltimore Ravens boast not only two of the most well-rounded rosters in the league, but also the last two MVPs: quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson. Both signal-callers occupy a rare space as dynamic playmakers whose dazzling play compels fans to follow them closely whenever they play. But while the two stars take the spotlight, the natural question for the 2020 season is which player will be next to follow their trajectory.
With that in mind, we asked USA TODAY Sports’ NFL reporters and columnists: Who is the NFL’s next must-watch player?
Kyler Murray. It is so often suggested that an NFL player makes his biggest jump in Year 2, which would mean we’d better not blink this season in following the Arizona Cardinals quarterback. It just so happens that Murray on Sunday will face the team that he made his NFL debut against. The Lions — who blitzed the rookie unmercifully in the season opener last year, only to see Murray lead the Cards back from a huge deficit to earn a tie — are about to get a first-hand measure of Murray’s progress in a little more than a year. It’s the multi-dimensional skill-set that makes Murray so fun to watch, just as it is with Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes. In addition to the rocket arm, Murray has an uncanny knack for losing defenders — not just because of his speed, but for his open-field moves. One of his most effective jukes: The hesitation that often causes a would-be tackler to briefly let up, which then allows for full exploitation from the slippery Murray. Just don’t think it’s all natural. Sage receiver Larry Fitzgerald praised Murray for maturity that has been reflected this season when it comes to running. As Fitzgerald put it, “He knows when hold it and when to fold it.” And when to throw it away rather take a sack. Murray’s maturation surely accounts for preservation. He’s bulked up a bit, adding muscle. And probably no quarterback in the NFL can slide — and on a dime — as effectively as Murray. It all adds up to dynamic performances you’ve gotta see.
Can I select a pair? I’ve already been really impressed by the top two picks of this year’s NFL draft. No. 1 selection Joe Burrow looks to be fully in command with Cincinnati — named a team captain out of the chute, playing with poise beyond his years and looking like the guy who just might lead the Bengals out of the wilderness. He’s not physically spectacular — though he has flashed nice (and needed) mobility — but you can already see him quickly processing what he sees on the field and keeping broken plays alive with his eyes typically downfield. Let’s also give a shoutout to Washington pass rusher Chase Young, who’s tied for the league lead (with T.J. Watt) after registering 2½ sacks through two games. Young surely appeared like a uniquely gifted quarterback hunter coming out of Ohio State and should continue to flourish playing on the WFT’s stacked D-line. Those Julius Peppers comparisons he drew might not be sufficient.
Kyler Murray’s qualified as a must-watch football and baseball player for half his life. And the athlete whom both leagues deemed a first-round draft selection has a new toy in his second pro year. Adding three-time All-Pro receiver DeAndre Hopkins to an offense that also features Larry Fitzgerald and running back Kenyan Drake will further unleash Murray’s well-documented potential. What Kliff Kingsbury draws up for Murray in tandem with his teammates will be fun. But even solo, Murray’s antics will continue to delight. He’s scored by air and by ground in each of his first two weeks as Arizona mounted its first 2-0 start in five years. Murray has scrambled for more yards (120, two scores) in two weeks of the season than any quarterback since ESPN began tracking the stat in 2006. No, Murray won’t be perfect. Stout San Francisco and Washington defenses each picked him off; Hopkins blamed his incorrect route for Murray’s Week 2 gift. But the 5-foot-10 Murray will continue to improvise and reinvent the game as Seattle’s Russell Wilson has. Arizona, before long, will be must-watch TV.
I’m going with Kyler Murray. He showed promise as a rookie, but now in Year 2, he’s flat out electric. Week 1 we saw him shred a very good 49ers defense for 230 passing yards and a touchdown, and 91 rushing yards and a touchdown in an upset victory. Then in Week 2, he lit up a Washington defense that has a very imposing front seven, recording 286 passing yards and a touchdown, and 67 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Murray and DeAndre Hopkins have an instant connection, and we’re seeing great presence and awareness out of the young quarterback He knows how to extend plays, and when to tuck the ball and run, and once he’s in the open field, that speed and elusiveness are second to none. Lamar Jackson is a dangerous and elusive runner, but Murray is even faster and even more of shifty. This is definitely your next must-see player.
If last week’s thrilling matchup against the reigning Defensive Player of the Year was any indication, Seahawks receiver DK Metcalf is pretty-much must-watch right now. Metcalf went toe-to-toe with Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore and didn’t back down to any challenge — even appearing to get under the skin of the notoriously-calm and measured Gilmore. It helps when you catch four of six targets for 92 yards, including a 54-yard touchdown during the game of the week, but Metcalf has size, speed, plenty of personality and is developing great chemistry with Russell Wilson. The craziest thing may be that Metcalf, in his second season, still has so much room to grow and is on his way to becoming a legitimate No. 1 threat.
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