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2019 All-22 analysis: Buffalo Bills defensive end Trent Murphy

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A favorite target for fans’ ire, how did Trent Murphy look in 2019?

Generally speaking, Trent Murphy is right up there in the conversation of “weakest link” on the Buffalo Bills’ defense. Many are calling for an upgrade at the defensive end position with Murphy going by the wayside. As we always do, though, we turn to the tape to see what we can see.


Play 1

I’d probably ding an end for getting pushed that far to the side but this looks intentional to get a better approach angle. I’d probably ding that decision if it weren’t for the nearly full-speed spin move. The first time I looked at Trent Murphy to see what kind of player the Buffalo Bills were getting—it was not this kind of player. He’s added to his repertoire.

Play 2

There are a lot of things here I’ll call “Typical Trent.” There’s a decent shove. An alright bend around the edge. Good use of hands. Murphy doesn’t get to the quarterback but he did enough to shrink the pocket.

Play 3

From the above the most positive commentary I had was regarding Trent Murphy’s use of hands. Well, here’s a play to back up my assertion that he has good hands. Murphy uses nice speed and timing to keep his arms going and not get hung up. He times the power punch well and finishes his block, which flushes Deshaun Watson out. All things considered, I like the pursuit too.

Play 4

One more clip of the hands in action. This play is here for a bigger reason, though. Notice how Trent Murphy is hanging back more on this play. Having his hands free is important not to knock his man back, but to be able to flow to either side and shut the play down. The read-and-react style of play for Murphy seemed to be called on a consistent basis. On this play Murphy flows well and forces Watson outside. Murphy pursues well again and sets up a big play from Tremaine Edmunds.

Play 5

Kyle Williams and Jerry Hughes used to be the main stunt team, with the two flipping spots rapidly. With Williams retired, the Bills tried the same concept with a larger group of players including Trent Murphy and Ed Oliver. Murphy seemed to be frequently knocked out of the lane like we see right before Devlin Hodges throws.

Play 6

This play was selected to reinforce the idea that you don’t need a QB hit or sack to impact the game. Like above, I’d consider this a pretty typical play from Murphy. He doesn’t have a good enough push to hit home, but he has enough to shrink the pocket, which possibly helped this pass go off target.

Play 7

Trent Murphy was asked to perform different roles when he was in Washington, including outside linebacker. This isn’t perfect coverage but it’s not too shabby either.

Play 8

Here’s another coverage snap and Murphy shows good discipline to remain in his zone. He potentially shuts down two receivers, which helps extend the play long enough for Shaq Lawson to get the coverage sack. This is a nice layer of extra versatility that creates some more value for Murphy.


Summary

Trent Murphy is a bit harder to peg than a lot of other players so I’ll start by simply saying he is for sure not elite, nor is he trash. With that opening up the vast middle ground I’ll revert to the same argument I had regarding Levi Wallace. If Trent Murphy is the weakest link in the chain, it was still one hell of a strong chain in 2019. If I’m the Bills I’m looking for an upgrade but I’m not letting go of Murphy until I’m sure I have one (and maybe not even then as he’d be good depth).

Trent Murphy’s less-than-elite strength and athleticism seem to be holding him back. Despite that, he’s consistently shrinking the pocket and reading plays at a pretty high level in his read-and-react role. Simply stated, the Buffalo Bills appear to have a diminished version of Trent Murphy compared to what he was in Washington. On the flip side, he’s improved significantly when it comes to technique. He wasn’t spectacular in 2019 but he was a contributor on an elite defense.