Redskins need rookie Murphy to manage his smarts

ASHBURN, Va. (AP) The good news is that Trent Murphy has a Stanford degree. The bad news, in some respects, is that Trent Murphy has a Stanford degree.

The rookie linebacker will make his first NFL start Monday night when the Washington Redskins play the Dallas Cowboys, and the challenge will be not to let his smarts hinder his instincts.

”He’s a Stanford grad, so he has sometimes the ability to overanalyze things,” defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said Friday. ”When he’s sure of what he’s doing, he plays fast. When he’s trying to figure out how the tackle’s going to block and all that, it’s not as fast.”

The second-round pick is having to grow up quicker than scheduled because of a season-ending injury to Brian Orakpo. The bald-headed player with the pale skin – ”Rhino” and ”Yeti” were among his college nicknames – has been averaging about 25 snaps per game subbing for Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan at outside linebacker, but the pass-rushing talent who had 15 sacks as a senior with the Cardinal has yet to reach the quarterback once with the Redskins.

”Sometimes he does seem to overanalyze – at least it looks like it – or he under-analyzes, whichever way you look at it,” coach Jay Gruden said. ”We can’t figure him out yet, if he’s smart or if he’s dumb sometimes. But we do know he’s got great intensity, but just sometimes he’s just not letting it all hang out for whatever reason. Sometimes he’s a little tentative, he’s overthinking things. He’s not quite quick to react and just play.

”He’s got his dad coaching him up, he’s got Haslett, he’s got (linebackers coach Brian) Baker yelling at him, I’m yelling at him. Everybody’s trying to get the most out of him because we know how good he is, and sometimes that can just fry you a little bit.”

Indeed, any conversation about Murphy begins with his father, Jerry Murphy, the plumber and cancer survivor who instilled a blue-collar attitude into his son with challenges such as steer wrestling and sprinting while carrying a water heater.

Asked for his father’s reaction about Monday night’s start, Murphy said: ”He’s said a lot of things, really, most of which is not public for TV. He’s so excited. The first thing he did was buy tickets to the game. He’ll be there cheering me on. He was talking about how it’s time to step up and play.”

As for father’s review of son’s play thus far, it’s straightforwardly blunt: ”He’s got a lot of critiques on me, but his biggest one is probably just like, `C’mon, take the guy, throw him out of the way, get the sack!’ OK, I’ll try to do that.”

Murphy said it was an adjustment getting only spot duty in his first few games, but it allowed him to study the work and study habits of Kerrigan and Orakpo. Of course, study habits should be no problem for someone with a degree in science, technology and society.

”It’s a huge leap,” he said of his first start. ”But at the same time, I know exactly what to prepare for, whereas before I wasn’t quite sure when I’d be in. I always had to be ready. Now I know, so it’s no surprise and I’ll be able to prepare accordingly.”

Murphy, like Haslett and Gruden, agrees that he also needs to be less tentative on the field.

”I knew how fast the game would be,” Murphy said, ”and that’s where my improvement still needs to be, just always playing fast without any hesitation.”

Note: Gruden said third-year RT Tom Compton will make a first NFL start Monday night ahead of Tyler Polumbus. Polumbus has allowed nine sacks this season, according to STATS, the second-highest total in the NFL.

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