‘That’s Why We Invested in the Position’ — Big Opportunity Awaits Bengals First-Round Pick Thursday

Bengals rookie first-round pick Myles Murphy played a season-high 27 snaps Sunday, and that number is likely to be bigger Thursday at Baltimore.

While the Cincinnati Bengals are holding out hope that they will have Trey Hendrickson and/or Sam Hubbard available on Thursday night against the Baltimore Ravens, there is a chance neither defensive end will be able to play.

Hubbard missed Sunday’s game with an ankle injury and was listed as a non-participant in Monday’s estimated practice report, and Hendrickson suffered a freakish right knee injury on the final scrimmage play of Sunday’s loss to Houston when Texans receiver Noah Brown fell into him after getting tangled up with a couple of Cincinnati defenders.

Big Opportunity Awaits Cincinnati Bengals’ First-Round Pick

Waiting in the wings for another, possibly bigger opportunity is rookie first-round pick Myles Murphy, who has been limited to just 112 snaps this season, a season-high 27 of which came Sunday with Hubbard inactive.

Through the first seven games, Murphy had one sack, three pressures, and two hurries. In the last two games, he’s had three pressures and three hurries.

“Pretty good,” is how Murphy rated his performance Sunday, when he had one pressure and one hurry. “Of course, I could have done better. But any performance, there’s some good stuff, some bad stuff, but always some things to improve on.”

Murphy’s inability to get more snaps has been more about the guys in front of him than how he’s performed during practices and games, defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo said.

And if Hendrickson or Hubbard can’t go, it’s not going to fall solely on Murphy to fill the role. It will look as it did Sunday, with Joseph Ossai and Cam Sample also seeing increased time.

“That’s why we invested in the position,” head coach Zac Taylor said. “We’ve put draft picks in there with Cam [Sample] and Myles [Murphy] and Joseph [Ossai]. This is the NFL. The injury situation never is going to be perfect for any of the teams we’re playing against or for ourselves.”

“That’s why your roster’s got to be deep, and you’ve got to be able to count on these guys. If their number is called more than normal, then that’s the position we’ll find ourselves in, and we’ll expect those guys to step up.”

The Bengals drafted Ossai in the third round in 2021 and took Sample 42 picks later in the fourth round. They’ve been here longer, know the system better, and have played in huge games.

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But Murphy is a first-round pick for a reason. He’s been playing more snaps than Ossai but only about half as many as Sample. It will be interesting to see how that split works out if the Bengals are without both of the starters. If neither Hubbard nor Hendrickson can go, look for Murphy to surpass his season-high snap total from Sunday.

The Bengals gave up 188 rushing yards Sunday, the most since allowing 206 in the season opener. Missing Hubbard, one of the league’s best defensive ends, played a huge role in that. But Anarumo was clear all the blame didn’t fall on Murphy, Ossai, and Sample.

“It’s not just on them,” he said. “It’s not that they didn’t play well enough — I think they had really good moments — but as a whole, that group needs to step up, especially if [Hendrickson and Hubbard] are both out.”

While facing such a unique and talented offense like Baltimore’s heightens the challenge for a rookie, there is some comfort in the opponent too, as Murphy has already seen them this year in a 27-24 loss in Week 2.

He played 19 snaps in that game, which was his season-high until Sunday.

“I think that all those guys for sure will have a little bit better feel for, ‘Hey, I’ve covered this guy already. I’ve rushed against this guy already. I kind of have an idea,'” Anarumo said.

In addition to the value in the familiar, there also is an increasing comfort level in Murphy getting into the second half of his rookie season and getting a chance to see how much variety there is in the league.

“Just the experience overall of seeing the different tackles he’s gonna play against and tight ends and the different looks,” Taylor said. “I think every snap that he’s gotten, he’s filed that away and done a good job continuing to grow.”

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