Cardinals QB Kyler Murray’s Secret Weapon: Center Rodney Hudson’s IQ

Rodney Hudson - Arizona Cardinals

Getty Arizona Cardinals center Rodney Hudson looks to the sideline during a preseason game August 13 against the Dallas Cowboys at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.

There were plenty of surprises in the Arizona Cardinals’ season-opener in Nashville, Tennessee.

The underdog Cardinals routed the Titans 38-13, edge rusher Chandler Jones had a career-high five sacks, and quarterback Kyler Murray made several spectacular plays on his way to a five-touchdown day.

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For Murray, one of the bigger surprises of the Cardinals’ road win came early in the second quarter when he fired a short pass over the middle to DeAndre Hopkins, who made the catch, spun away from a Titans defender and sprinted into the end zone for a 17-yard touchdown.

Hopkins’ spin move, while impressive, wasn’t the shocking part, Murray said.

Speaking with reporters Wednesday, September 15, the 24-year-old quarterback said it was center Rodney Hudson who recognized the blitz and tipped him off to the coverage. Murray quickly changed the play and then watched it unfold as Hudson had foreseen.

“I’ve never experienced that with the center alerting me that that was coming,” he said. “That’s just something that he does that most guys wouldn’t or wouldn’t see.”

Hudson said he recognized the blitz from watching tape of the Titans’ preseason games. The center shared that information with Murray, “and I trusted it would happen,” he told reporters Friday, September 17.

“I just try to do my job,” Hudson said, “so that way I can make things easier for not only (Murray) but for the guys next to me on the line.”

Fellow offensive lineman Justin Pugh called Hudson’s on-field IQ “unbelievable.”

“He made some calls on Sunday where he sees some things, and he can help make checks,” Pugh told reporters Thursday, September 16. “That’s why here’s here.”


Cardinals Counting on Help From Hudson

Prior to the Cardinals’ season-opener, general manager Steve Keim predicted the veteran center would be a big help to the Cardinals’ third-year quarterback.

Keim praised Hudson for his “extremely high football IQ,” as well as his ability to communicate with the quarterback prior to the snap about what he’s seeing from defenses.

“Rodney has seen it all and is rarely wrong,” he told Arizona Sports 98.7 FM’s “Burns and Gambo” on Friday, September 10.

Arizona traded a third-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft for the three-time Pro Bowl center. The Cardinals also received a seventh-round pick from the Las Vegas Raiders in the deal.

Hudson, 32, now in his 11th NFL season, started all 92 games at center in his six seasons with the Raiders from 2015-20. He began his career in Kansas City in 2011 and started 127 of the 143 games he played in four seasons with the Chiefs.

The Cardinals struggled with defensive pressure up the middle in 2020, and the 6-foot-2, 315-pound center was brought in to plug that hole.

“It makes a ton of difference,” Murray said.

‘NFL Slimetime’: Kyler Murray Wins ‘NVP’

Murray may have been snubbed as NFC Offensive Player of the Week following his huge Week 1, but the Cardinals quarterback wasn’t shut out.

While Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford took home the NFC award for Week 1, Murray became the first-ever “NVP” — Nickelodeon Valuable Player — when the kids and family-themed network’s “NFL Slimetime” debuted Wednesday, September 15.

The half-hour NFL highlights show is hosted by former NFL wide receiver Nate Burleson and Nickelodeon star Dylan Gilmer.

Running Angry Pays off Cardinals RB James Conner

In other lesser-known award news, Cardinals running back James Conner was selected as the Angry Runs winner for Week 1 by NFL Network’s “Good Morning Football.”

Conner, 26, rushed for just 53 yards on 16 carries (3.3 yards per carry) against Tennessee, but he delivered a pair of Derrick Henry-like stiff arms on one play — first sending Jackrabbit Jenkins to the ground, then shoving away his former Pittsburgh Steelers teammate Bud Dupree.

The 6-foot-1, 233-pound running back ended up losing a yard on the play, but the display of power earned him the Angry Runs scepter. 

“I don’t care that he got tackled for a loss,” said “Good Morning Football” host Kyle Brandt. “I don’t care if he lost 50 yards or gained 3,000. This segment ain’t about gaining yards; it’s about taking souls, and James Conner just did it.”

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