Following Week three of the preseason, the Buffalo Bills are looking for flickers of hope after a dismal performance against the Cincinnati Bengals. Running back Marcus Murphy is one such flicker. With the offense living and dying on the back of LeSean McCoy, the depth of this position group is unusually important in Buffalo. Thus far, Murphy has helped alleviate some of the dread of the ever present threat of a McCoy injury.
With the less-than-stellar reviews of the offensive line so far, let’s start out journey with Marcus Murphy’s blocking ability. With a stunting lineman trying to find a gap, Murphy steps up and uses good leverage to stop his man in his tracks. Josh Allen still goes down, but not because of Murphy. In fact, Murphy’s block provided breathing room if Allen could have drifted in that direction. Murphy also slips off after the impact and accelerates right away.
Carlos Dunlap has a hell of a sidestep that looks to be taking him right around Jordan Mills. Mills’s right foot isn’t making me comfortable that he’ll be able to reset in time to prevent Dunlap from coming free at Josh Allen. Marcus Murphy isn’t quite as well favored by physics as he was last play, but cleanly stops Dunlap from encroaching further. Mills resets and Dunlap’s pass rush is negated. This is a perfect demonstration of scheming a chip in to help a lineman beat a one on one.
This isn’t a route that will “wow,” but it’s certainly adequate at worst and pretty good for a running back at best. Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll hasn’t been shy about moving players around. Marcus Murphy saw enough time as a receiver to suspect it’s not just a gimmick. Note that Murphy begins blocking as Charles Clay catches the ball, essentially making Murphy a shifty fullback on this play. Murphy was targeted twice, catching both passes for seven total yards.
The Bengals’ ability to rush during the game works against them a bit on this play. One, arguably two, defenders are so quick to cut into the offensive line that they take themselves out of run support. This isn’t to suggest that Murphy didn’t do some great things here, because he definitely does. He finds his lane and uses some subtle moves to navigate a narrow corridor. Murphy breaks one arm tackle on his way through and wills the pile to a first down.
There’s no hesitation as Murphy hits the hole. Any slower and Dunlap hits him head-on rather than the side. Murphy is a decisive runner and will exploit narrow openings when they’re present. Take a second look and see how Murphy pulls the much larger Dunlap a couple extra yards. Murphy then finishes the play by spinning around to protect himself.
The play pauses briefly to show that the front four of the Bengals is blocked well by the Buffalo offensive line. They’ve managed to create a pretty gigantic lane, and Murphy explodes through it. Charles Clay is in as the lead blocker, negating Nick Vigil. Ultimately, a good play design and execution is beaten by a better design and execution. Strong safety Shawn Williams is coming in hot, and it’s one too many Bengals to block. Murphy is able to fall forward at least, but credit goes to the Bengals.
LeSean McCoy likely bounces this one outside with a nice sidestep at speed and makes something off the left edge. It’s not necessarily going to be a big play, but something. Murphy’s decisiveness works against him as he plows right into the pile, going nowhere. Despite this pitfall, Murphy brings a nice skill set to the table. It’s looking like a safe bet that he finds himself as the third running back on the depth chart, at least, when the regular season starts.