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Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said at OTAs in June that he expected a big leap from linebacker Trent Murphy.
"He's bigger, he's stronger, he's rushing the passer extremely well, he's getting off the ball very well right now," Gruden said. "I think I've expected him to make the biggest jump from first year to second year on our football team because not only is he bigger, but he knows the position, he's athletic, and…he's already a smart football player with great instincts."
The folks over at Pro Football Focus are forecasting the same leap for the Redskins' top pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, as columnist J.J. Ziegler declared Murphy the franchise's "Secret Superstar".
Citing Murphy's collegiate production at Stanford, performance as a starter for eight games after Brian Orakpo sustained a season-ending injury and "relentlessness in finishing plays," Ziegler noted Murphy developed into a starter much quicker than many predicted.
"His first game as a starter was against the Cowboys, and their extraordinary offensive line. Murphy was up to the challenge and came away with a QB hit, three hurries and a batted pass," Ziegler said.
Despite stepping into the starting lineup in the middle of the season, the Stanford product still filled up the stat sheet, logging 50 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 16 quarterback pressures and two forced fumbles. His performance transferred well to Pro Football Focus' stats, as they graded him the sixth-best run defender in the league among 3-4 outside linebackers. He also proved to be one of the most reliable tacklers on the team, missing only two tackles in his 15 appearances.
Now that Murphy is working with first-year defensive coordinator Joe Barry, who has spent 14 years as a linebackers coach, he will be in the perfect conditions to continue his development, according to Ziegler.
"With the right tutelage from defensive coordinator Joe Barry, who was a linebacker himself, and Murphy's fortitude, he could be a powerhouse OLB to match Ryan Kerrigan."