The New Orleans Saints selected Marcus Murphy late in the 2015 NFL Draft, and he's battling for a spot on the 53-man roster as both a third-string running back and kick return man. He's certainly made the most of recent opportunities.
The Advocate: Marcus Murphy impresses Saints in return game
Sean Payton liked what he saw out of Marcus Murphy on Thursday night against Baltimore.
Payton gave Murphy the green light, telling him to return every kick in an effort to take a good, hard look at what the seventh-rounder from Missouri can do in the return game.
Murphy didn’t disappoint.
"I think there’s a handful of players, he’s one of them, that the special teams are going to be extremely important," Payton said. "He didn’t receive a chance to return that many punts, but I thought his instincts were really good with the kick returns."
The Advocate: Sean Payton saw growth spurt from Marcus Murphy last week
"Those little growth spurts will come at different times," Payton said. "I think we saw one the other night from our returner (Marcus Murphy)."
Murphy is fighting to make the team as a returner with Jalen Saunders. His ability to serve as third-down back could help his case if C.J. Spiller’s knee injury lingers into the season.
Shreveport Times: Saints' Sean Payton wants to see more of Marcus Murphy
"People say I was overlooked, underrated," Murphy said. "I just want to be able to get an opportunity, and the Saints gave me an opportunity, so I just want to make the best of it."
The Saints have had success with smaller running backs who double as return men — namely, Darren Sproles, who in 2011 set an NFL record that still stands with 2,696 all-purpose yards.
Like Sproles, Murphy has exceptional speed and agility, in addition to being deceptively strong for a player his size. He’s already demonstrated he’s not afraid to try to break tackles rather than veer out of bounds to avoid a hit. [...]
"He can put his nose down and find that seam," said fullback Eric Lorig, who also plays on special teams. "In the running back game, he’s getting more involved and he knows what he’s doing. He’s a smart player. … Marcus seems to bring a lot to the table."
Murphy was a good running back and a fantastic return man at Missouri. For so many players like him, the biggest key is simply getting an opportunity; some do, and some don't. It appears that Sean Payton is giving him a serious look, however, and in the preseason game against the Ravens, he delivered. Now he has to do it again and again. The Saints' running back depth chart is a little bit crowded, especially if Spiller gets healthy, so these next couple of weeks could be huge for Murph.