Third-round rookie cornerback Marcus Jones has recently made headlines due to his contributions on offense. While the circumstances are not quite the same, Jones is not the first New England Patriots player to move from one side of the ball to the other this year.
Whereas Jones is being used as a two-way player, Bill Murray has made a full-time switch from the offensive to the defensive side of the ball: the third-year man, who started his career as a defensive lineman, is now playing on the other side of the line of scrimmage.
Jones changed positions this summer, to help maximize his ability to stick around. A former undrafted free agent out of William & Mary, he was been buried on the depth chart his first two years in New England. So, he and the team decided to change things up: Murray moved to the interior O-line despite neither having played there in college nor high school.
The move has not led to regular playing time — his first three career snaps in Week 13 against Buffalo came on special teams — but is has helped him become an important depth piece while on the practice squad. All of that did not come as a surprise to one of his former positionmates, though.
“He’s one of those guys [who fall in love with the process],” said defensive lineman Deatrich Wise Jr. “Every day he’s working to better his craft, to better his situation, and he just loves to work. That’s one thing that I love about him. Every day since he’s been here he’s trying to get better, to get stronger, to get faster, to get whatever he needs to improve on that’s what he does.
“Now that he’s on the offensive side, he’s still out there — it’s not with me anymore — perfecting his craft, his sets, his punch, everything. He looks like he’s been playing O-line now for 10 years. He looks pretty good, honestly.”
Murray’s ability to play on offense has led to him getting elevated to the game-day roster on semi-regular occasion. The Patriots brought him up for their Week 7 game against the Chicago Bears, and then again in Week 12 versus the Minnesota Vikings.
He did not see any action in either contest, but served as valuable depth along an O-line that had been dealing with some attrition. His third and final standard elevation happened last Thursday versus Buffalo, with Murray seeing those aforementioned three snaps.
Murray may not be a starter-level player at his new position yet, and there is a chance he never will be, but the Patriots are definitely seeing him as a lineman worthy of being kept around. His work ethic and ability to adapt to a new situation have allowed him to put himself in that position — despite not being able to fully participate in some practices this summer and regular season.
“It’s unfortunate that he wasn’t able to put a full training camp and even regular season together. It’s kind of been in spurts,” said head coach Bill Belichick in November. “But lately it’s been good. His training’s good. I mean he looks great physically. And of course, our practices are cut down now, one padded practice a week and that kind of thing. So, the opportunity for those players developmental O- and D-lineman, linebackers, tight ends is just limited.
“In the line of scrimmage blocking and pass protection, you know all those kinds of things. Receivers and DBs can run routes and cover and that but the development of the bigger guys in the interior part of the line is just limited. So, Bill does all he can.”
Apparently, Bill is doing something right. And while he no longer is eligible to be brought up to the game-day squad through the standard elevation process, the Patriots having him in their back-pocket as an emergency option is not a bad thing.
“I’m happy for him every time I see him in a uniform, like ‘Yes!’” said Wise Jr. about the 25-year-old. “Whenever his name gets called, I’m always rooting for him. It’s good to see guys like that who put in the effort every day. And there are a lot of guys on the team who are like that, but just talking about Bill Murray today, he’s been doing a great job and look forward to seeing him prosper, too.”