As the Redskins look for different combinations that prove successful in certain situations, Jay Gruden says Trent Murphy and Preston Smith will have relatively even reps.
For now, the Washington Redskins will split reps, "probably 50-50," between second-year linebacker Trent Murphy and rookie linebacker Preston Smith, according to head coach Jay Gruden.
A countdown of the Top 10 images of Redskins linebacker Trent Murphy during the 2014 season.
During the Redskins' 23-20 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday at FedExField, Murphy, who has started all four games this season opposite Ryan Kerrigan, appeared on 33 of 58 plays for the defense while Smith appeared in 30.
For now, though, Murphy remains the team's second starting linebacker.
"He's a very good first and second down run player," Gruden said of Murphy, the team's top pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. "He showed the ability to pass rush [on Sunday], so we like both of them and they're in the developmental stages of their careers."
Murphy recorded at least one sack on the day -- and possibly a sack and a half -- and officially closed out the victory with what was ruled as a fumble recovery on a play where he caught a lateral thrown from one side of the field to the other.
"Generally you want to go chase the ball wherever is," Murphy said of the final play of the game. "Fortunately the coaches had the foresight to kind of give us little tips [like] stay home the ball is coming back. Sure enough, the offensive line was trying to build a wall to our side so I just stayed with the running back and sure enough that ball came right across the sky for me."
Smith, meanwhile, got his second sack of the season when he took down Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford in the second quarter for one of the Redskins' five sacks on the afternoon.
"On my sack, just great coverage, great rush by the whole front four," the rookie said. "Back end guys all playing good. I got a chance to wrap back around and get a sack. It was a great feeling knowing the defense was firing on all cylinders and it worked out in my favor."
Smith also showed the ability to be a presence in the passing game beyond sacking the quarterback, as the Mississippi State product recorded a deflected pass when got his hand up in time to swat down a low pass attempt by Bradford.
As he continues to build on his performances week in and week out, defensive coordinator Joe Barry believes it will all click for Smith at some point down the road.
"One day he might have it and think he has it and the next day, he shows up and you've got to coerce him to get going," Barry said at the beginning of the season. "Preston's been, typical rookie progress. I think OTAs was good, I think training camp was good. I think he did some things in the preseason. But he's still a young player. I think he's a kid I'm very excited about. He's got a great skill set. He's a big man, you don't realize. You walk by him and you're like 'oh what is he 245-250'. He's 270 pounds. He's a big athletic kid that is just tipping the surface I think of how good he can be."
With Junior Galette out for the season, the two must continue to find ways to add to a pass rush that also includes the likes of Kerrigan, Chris Baker, Jason Hatcher, Stephen Paea, Ricky Jean Francois and others.
"I like their effort, that's No. 1, and for four quarters to be able to come like that – that hard, that often – I think was a great testament for their character and how hard they're working," Gruden said of the pass rush.