I have previously written about Brenden Schooler potentially being a two-way player for the Patriots. Now Bill Murray may join him in his attempt to improve versatility.
One attempt at a two-way player should be huge news considering the last one was Chuck Bednarik in 1960. But in camp this week, we may have seen the beginning of another possible two-way player.
Patriots Fans Do You Know Bill Murray?
Murray has spent the last two seasons on the Patriots practice squad after playing college ball at William & Mary. He was an outstanding player making two All-CAA First-Teams, had 143 tackles, 19 sacks, TEN blocked kicks, four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and six passes defended. His four blocked kicks in 2019 led the FCS. He never played offense, though, which makes this two-way transition even more shocking. He played offensive line in high school, but there are many two-way players at the high school level.
Why Are The Patriots Having Him Try This?
The reason given, according to Murray, is straightforward “I’m just here to help the team in any way possible. Coach wanted me to try out the offensive line. So I’m going to give it everything I’ve got and help the team in any way I can”. This reason makes sense, and there is also a significant motivation for him as he had not made the Patriots roster in his two seasons in pro football.
How Is It Going So Far Between Murray & The Patriots
Murray says the transition has been the most accessible experience but is committed to improving. In his interview, he revealed that fundamentals were the most challenging part for him, which makes sense considering he hasn’t played the position since high school. However, Murray also said he could take toughness from D-Line to O-Line and didn’t have to change how he prepared in the offseason to make an attempt.
Murray appears to think this is a position switch like Stephen Neal made for us at the turn of the century, winning three Super Bowls with us. However, he is only training on offense now, which could mean he is playing offense only permanently, is focusing on offense to try and learn faster, or is training offense only due to multiple injuries on the offensive line and needing to have him to make up numbers.
How He Should Be Used In Patriots Preseason Games
He should be used heavily in the preseason, getting a significant amount of offensive and defensive snaps. If the starters are not in the game, he should at least be rotating in and out on defense while getting several drives on offense when Mac Jones is not in the game. He has the potential to make the team in the preseason as he was likely close to doing last year when he had 8.5 quarterback disruptions, 1.5 sacks, four tackles, and a pass breakup playing both defensive tackle and defensive end as well as on special teams. If he can add any level of competence as a guard, he will have a good shot at making the team.
What If He Maxes His Versatility
This would be a massive boost for Murray’s hopes of making the roster as he could potentially have a backup spot at two positions. However, he would likely end up playing more defense than offense because D-Lineman switches more than O-Linemen, and he is significantly more experienced there.
He could be used as a backup offensive lineman playing a couple of snaps a game while playing about 15-20% of defensive snaps, especially on passing downs. He would also be on the kick return, kick coverage, and significantly to block kicks.
Concerns I Have With Murray On The Patriots
Despite the potential of Murray being a two-way success, I have several concerns about him.
He has not played offensive line in several years and may be unable to learn the position quickly enough to make an impact. There is a reason that Stephen Neal is likely the only player to make this transition as a professional and stick.
He may not be good enough to impact defense against the other teams’ starters. Nearly all of his preseason snaps were against fellow backups and not at regular season intensity (except those trying to secure a roster spot).
His weight is low for both defensive tackle and guard. His 275-pound frame gives Murray a RAS score of just 0.89 as a defensive tackle and 0.33 for a guard. Although his outstanding speed may help with his 4.93 seconds, 40 may help, especially at defensive tackle (9.07 RAS for defensive tackles, 9.85 for guards), and he did show his strength with 30 bench presses (8.32 RAS for defensive tackles, 8.75 for guards) which is a good sign for his ability to be able to block bigger defensive linemen.
Best Case Scenario
Murray makes the team out of the preseason and plays a significant portion of defensive snaps while positively impacting defense and special teams. Towards the end of the season, he will be one of our main backup offensive linemen and come in the game when the Pats rotate their linemen. If that sounds like some rogue idea as offensive line play relies on chemistry, we have done it for several years, and other teams have.
Best case special teams stats: 300 snaps, ten tackles, one forced fumble, one blocked kick
Best case defensive stats: 250 snaps, 15 tackles, three TFL’s, two sacks, two pass breakups, a forced fumble
Best case offensive stats: 150 snaps, 60 PFF score
Worst Case Scenario
Murray has a poor preseason, does not make the 53-man roster, fails to show promise transitioning to O-Line, and eventually gets released from the practice squad, forcing him to retire.
Murray will start the season on the practice squad while improving his fundamentals and techniques as a guard. Eventually, due to a combination of injuries on both lines and Murray enhancing his ability to play guard, he will make his regular-season debut sometime toward the middle of the season (maybe after the Week 10 bye). He will play offense and defense, although he will not get significant snaps on either. However, he will become an impact player on special teams and block at least one kick.
His performance will be good enough to ensure a spot on the 2023 roster due to his versatility, and he may see an increased role on offense, defense, or both next year.
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