Trent Murphy was chosen by the Redskins with the 47th pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. With Ryan Kerrigan and the recently franchise-tagged Brian Orakpo on the roster, many thought this pick should have been used on a position of greater need. The Redskins needed a right tackle, guard, inside linebacker, cornerback and safety going into the 2014 season. Even though this was seen as a luxury pick, Murphy’s addition to the defensive unit has been positive as he is already one of the Redskins’ best run defenders while showing flashes of pass rushing ability.
According to scouting reports, the Stanford prospect fit well in a 3-4 outside linebacker position as a quality run defender with a repetoire of pass rushing moves. He was also a hard worker with excellent strength and a strong motor. In 2013 Murphy led the NCAA in sacks, but it was his lack of speed and explosiveness that dropped him out of first round consideration.
For the Redskins, Murphy started the season as a situational pass rusher in the Redskins’ 3rd down pass rushing package where the Redskins lined up Orakpo, Hatcher, Murphy and Kerrigan on the same defensive line. After Brian Orakpo was lost for the season with a torn pectoral muscle in Week 7 versus the Titans, Murphy was thrust into the starting right outside linebacker position opposite of Redskins’ Ryan Kerrigan. For this breakdown, Trent Murphy’s role in pass rush, run defense and pass coverage will be analyzed to show his effectiveness and areas that need to be improved over the off-season.
Murphy already had a strong set of pass rushing moves coming from Stanford. For an outside linebacker the number one trait you are judged on most is your ability or inability to get to the quarterback. These plays below will analyze Murphy’s pass rushing moves.
Play 1 – Murphy lines up in the 3-tech and speed-rushes through the B-gap between the right guard and the right tackle. This pulls the right guard out of the play and makes Manning step up into the pocket. Kerrigan finishes Manning for the sack. This play would have not have been possible without Murphy’s intial speed rush through the pocket.
Play 10 – This is the endzone non-holding call that should have ended the Cowboys game when the Redskins played them in Week 8. Murphy takes 3-steps forward and then cuts inside to find Romo in the endzone. LT77 Smith is clearly beaten and jumps on Murphy’s back to neutralize him. Romo steps up into the pocket and fires down field for the wide receiver on the crossing route. Great penetration by Murphy on the elite left tackle.
Play 11 – Sack Alert! Murphy takes 3-steps toward LT Kalil and cuts inside the pocket. The left guard attempts to slow down Murphy, but Murphy is too fast for him. He finshes Bridgewater for the first sack of his career. Great decisiveness on the cut inside.
Play 15 – TE85 Ellison in the backfield moves across the pocket to block Murphy. Murphy cuts inside and uses the double-swipe to make sure Ellison can’t engage him directly. Murphy dives at the elusive QB Bridgewater disrupting his rhythm. Murphy gets credited for the QB Hurry, but not the sack here.
Play 23 – Murphy uses the swim move to get inside penetration on the left tackle. Murphy is almost there to hit the quarterback, but needs to a better job of disengaging on the offensive lineman. Once Murphy takes his first 3-4 steps, he needs to cut back inside with the swim move as opposed to waiting until the offensive lineman is fully extended before acting. A quicker move would have at least set up Murphy for the QB hit.
Play 29 – This is one of my favorite plays made by the combination of Kerrigan and Murphy that I analyzed in Kerrigan’s Double Swipe 13.5 sacks article. Murphy rushes from the 3-tech position and shoves the right tackle out of the way allowing Kerrigan to cut inside. Murphy continues speed rushing pulling the right guard and the runningback out of the play as well. I mentioned in the previous article that I wondered why they didn’t try this more often, but the 49ers were actually ready for the double attack later in the game when the ‘Skins tried again. I would however like to see this used in general by more teams as it seems pretty effective.
There were times when Murphy’s pass rushing was not very effective at all where Murphy was removed from the play. This was seen a lot in the Indianapolis Colts game in Week 13 where the left tackle clearly won the battle each time not allowing Murphy any rushing room.
Play 39 – Murphy rushes from the right edge attempting to cut back inside, but the lengthy left tackle stops him in his tracks completely.
Play 12 – In this play Murphy starts from the right edge and spin moves back inside. If you notice, Murphy’s spin move is actually pretty effective, but he rarely used it. In the second half of the season I counted a total of 5 times and most were inside spins from the 3-tech position as opposed to a fake edge speed rush into a spin move which is what is shown here. This can also be something that Murphy works on incorporating in the future.
Play 22 – This is by far the most frustrating pass rush Murphy does all season. He has a completely open shot at the quarterback, but he hestitates! No idea why as McCown should have been lit up on this play, but instead Murphy allows him to complete the pass.
As you can see, Murphy definitely has positives, and has definitely has things he needs to work on. For one, being more decisive will be beneficial for Murphy. It seemed like when he had a move in mind pre-snap, Murphy did a much better job of planning and executing it against the offensive lineman. When he didn’t have the move pre-planned, he always seemed to be a step or two behind when he was trying to come up with the move spontaenously. Murphy needs to get better at this.
The one major promising thing for Murphy is the variety of his moves. He does a great job with inside cut move, but has to work on his speed rush around the edge and completely turning his hips to angle at the quarterback. Hopefully another off-season in the NFL will help him do this. I would love to see Murphy use the swim and spin moves more often from the edge. This will also help him piece together pass rushes to get to the quarterback.
One of Murphy’s best attributes this off-seasn was his run stopping ability with the use of his strength at the point of attack in plays 25, 30, 33 and 40.
Play 25 – Murphy engages with the fullback and shoves him back clearly winning the battle and seals the outside edge of the play so the ball carrier is taken down for a loss on the play.
Play 30 – Murphy engages with the right tackle on the stretch run to the outside and maintains his edge to grab RB Gore for a short gain.
Play 33 – Murphy avoids FB49 Miller’s chop block in order to tackle RB21 Gore for a loss.
Play 40 – This is my favorite run stop by Murphy all season.
Murphy engages with TE85 Davis on the stretch run to the left from I-formation.
Murphy shoves Davis to the ground and then Murphy engages with FB49 Miller.
Murphy completely removes Miller from the play with a quick jab.
Then Murphy takes down Gore for the run stop. Just an excellent use of strength at the point of attack to out-muscle Davis and Miller out of the play and shut down the run.
Unlike most rookie 3-4 outside linebackers, Murphy was used in pass coverage as well to cover runningbacks in the flat and underneath zones. Murphy is surprisingly fluid in space for a bigger, bulkier linebacker. This can be seen in plays 26, 36, 37, and 38.
Play 26 – Murphy in the ROLB position shoves the tight end who was releasing from the line of scrimmage now allowing separation.
Play 36 – RB21 Gore is in the left slot and Murphy doesn’t allow separation by using his strength to push Gore out of the play. This is a great use of the allowed contact within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage.
Play 37 – Murphy’s responsibility is the underneath zone on the far side. Murphy shades to his far zone and then realizes Kaepernick wants to scramble outside left. Murphy then shuts down the checkdown route not allowing Kaepernick an easy underneath completion.
Play 38 – Murphy does a good job of initial contact on the twins bunch left to slow their routes down. Then Murphy runs to the sideline to make sure the flat route is covered as well.
In Jim Haslett’s 3-4 hybrid system, Murphy has already been seen as a great addition to the defense. His fluid hips, strength at the point of attack and overall versatility allows Haslett to line Murphy up all over the line of scrimmage to help the Redskins’ defense. Switching to a more traditional 3-4 or even back to a 4-3 right defensive end will probably help with his sack totals and pass rushing attempts, but it is good that the Redskins have a defender that is good in space as well to be used in more exotic situations.