Buffalo Bills running back Marcus Murphy’s contributions this preseason have been well documented. The third-year pro leads the team with 11 carries for 74 yards and a touchdown through the first two exhibition games. He’s also the leading punt returner, with 44 yards on just two returns.
It was a play Murphy made that didn’t show up in the box score against Cleveland, however, that really caught coach Sean McDermott’s eye.
“They were backed up a little bit and the short kick that he came up and fielded maybe at the minus 40, 45, it gave us good field position,” McDermott said. “A lot of times, you see returners let that ball bounce and it takes 20 more yards and then we’re out of field position. That was, I thought, a key moment in the game that maybe stayed under the radar. We all saw what he did with the return, but just as important, is what he did with that catch which established field position.”
“Special teams is a big part of the game,” Murphy said. “It's all about field position. The most important thing about being a returner is making good decisions. Making a fair catch, making the right read, that's a viable part of the game.”
Murphy’s play was an example of why offensive coordinator Brian Daboll said Thursday he’s “done everything right.”
“This guy is a young player, but he practices the right way, he prepares the right way,” Daboll said. “Obviously, he’s had a good training camp, but the success that he’s had in these first couple games is a product of what kind of kid he is, how hard he works, the preparation. He’s serious, how he finishes in practice. There’s numerous clips out there (showing that) he just does the right thing. He’s very dependable, and hopefully he just continues to get better."
Through the first two preseason games, Murphy’s spot on the 53-man roster looks relatively secure. The question now is, how much of a role can he play?
“There’s roles for everybody that is a good player,” Daboll said. “I’ve been part of teams that have four, five running backs active in a game. Everybody has a different skill set, whether it’s size, speed, quickness, pass protection. It’s good to have a variety of skill guys, particularly at that position, that can do different things.”
Murphy has plenty of experience as a returner dating back to his college days at Missouri. He scored four touchdowns as a sophomore in 2012, three on punts and one on a kickoff, for the Tigers. He worked primarily as a returner during his first two NFL seasons with the New Orleans Saints in 2015-16.
“I have some good experience,” he said. “I just want to come out and make the most of each rep, each opportunity. Every play, I want to go out and attack it. My main goal is to improve every day.”
The team announced Thursday that linebacker Keenan Robinson has decided to retire. Robinson, 29, is a former fourth-round draft pick by Washington in 2012. He played five NFL seasons, mostly with the Redskins and New York Giants.
Robinson was signed shortly before the start of training camp and got a handful of reps with the starters during training camp.
Defensive tackle Kyle Williams remained out of practice Thursday, and is week to week with a knee injury. Also not practicing were defensive end Trent Murphy (groin) and safety Kelcie McCray (hamstring), both of whom worked to the side with trainers. Left tackle Dion Dawkins (hip) also worked with trainers.
Defensive tackle Tenny Palepoi was released by the team Thursday night after not being at practice for a second consecutive day.