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Trent Murphy faces easy transition, high hopes with Bills

Trent Murphy is an excellent fit for the Buffalo Bills' defensive scheme, even though he's coming from the 3-4 defense of the Washington Redskins.

Murphy lined up as a defensive end on a four-man line on 76 percent of his snaps for the Redskins in 2016. That's exactly how he will be used in Leslie Frazier's 4-3 Buffalo defense.

If Murphy can keep ascending in his career, as he did over his first three seasons on the field, then the Bills could have a much more effective edge rushing combination in 2018.

Jerry Hughes is a proven threat off one edge. The Bills lacked a complement to him in 2017, which is why they gave Murphy a three-year, $22 million contract in free agency. Murphy got $10.37 million guaranteed in the deal, which says the Bills view him as an impact player.

Murphy had nine sacks in 2016, then missed all of 2017 with a knee injury.

Murphy thinks he will be in his comfort zone both from a standpoint of scheme and the environment coach Sean McDermott has created.

"What I think coach is looking for here as far as blue-collar guys, a scheme, guys that are passionate and trying to build a culture," Murphy said after signing. "Kind of just that tough, blue-collar mentality, winning, playing together, just competing.  ... We’re just stirring up that culture and I couldn’t be more excited to be a part of it."

If you add up Murphy's sacks, hurries and hits on the quarterback in 2016 relative to the number of times he rushed the passer, then he ranked 13th in the NFL among all edge rushers.

Nobody in the NFL would rate Murphy as the 13th most gifted edge rusher.

Murphy is a relentless, high-effort edge rusher. He's not a speed rusher skilled at dipping and bending under and around offensive tackles, as Hughes does.

Trent Murphy looks, talks the part of a McDermott & Co. fit

For that reason, the contract the Bills gave him raised some eyebrows around the league.

"Really surprised the Bills paid so much for Trent Murphy," said Sports Illustrated analyst Andy Benoit. "He's not a natural third-down player or a 4-3 D-lineman. He's a lesser Lorenzo Alexander."

That's one man's view, although Murphy is aware of the skeptics.

"After 2016 and people saying that I could have been a fluke and 'we’re not expecting him to do that,' I was humming in training camp and ready to have an even better season," Murphy said of his showing last training camp. "I couldn’t have been more excited, so I was heartbroken when in the first week, the sixth play of the preseason game," I got hurt.

A review of Murphy's 2016 season with the Redskins shows he lined up as a 3-4 outside linebacker only 20 percent of his snaps. He played the overwhelming majority of his snaps when the Redskins were in nickel or dime defense.

So there's no position adjustment for him in Buffalo.

Murphy's best pass rush move in 2016 was going speed to power; burst off the line and then use his strength and leverage to push the tackle back into the quarterback.

However, he can flash speed on occasion. He showed more flexibility around the corner than Bills defensive end Shaq Lawson, who is the incumbent starter opposite Hughes on the Bills' front four.

Lawson had four sacks in 11 games last season. He played pretty well against the run, but so far in his young career has not looked like a natural edge rusher. He has looked better rushing from a defensive tackle spot.

Lawson and Murphy could complement each other well. The Bills don't need to overwork Murphy and use him against running formations on first down.

Murphy is versatile, too, with the ability to line up on either side.

The Redskins liked to use their No. 1 pass rusher, Ryan Kerrigan, as the left defensive end much of the time. Their other defensive end, Preston Smith, usually lined up on the right.

Murphy alternated sides depending on whether Kerrigan or Smith were in the game. He played 52 percent on the right and 48 on the left, not counting a handful of snaps as a defensive tackle or in goal-line defense. Murphy had 4.5 sacks from the right side and 4.5 from the left.

Hughes played exclusively on the right side last season and had only four sacks. The Bills ranked 31st in sacks per pass attempt.

Murphy also is an assignment sound player. If the quarterback is running a read-option play, Murphy is patient. He's not crashing down too soon and leaving the edge wide open for the quarterback to scamper around.

Buffalo needs Murphy to be as good, and ideally a bit better, than he was in 2016. If it happens, the Bills' pass rush will be back from the dead.

Five things to know about new Bills defensive end Trent Murphy

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