ASHBURN, Va. -- The coaches anticipated more struggles against the run. Trent Murphy knew about their concerns when he took over for Brian Orakpo. So he did something about it: played the run well.
And he thanks his coaches for the motivation.
"Just the thought of the coaches questioning my ability at all drives me crazy," he said. "I was probably so effective because they questioned it a little and that drove me crazy, so I knew it was something I needed to work on so they could have confidence in me and my ability."
The coaches grew to trust him, but now they will need to replace him for the season finale. Murphy became the latest Washington Redskins player to be placed on injured reserve. That makes 12 players on injured reserve, though three others -- linebackers Akeem Jordan and Darryl Sharpton, and cornerback Chase Minnifield all were released from IR with a settlement.
The Redskins lost a handful of key defensive players to injured reserve: cornerback DeAngelo Hall, Orakpo, nickel cornerback Tracy Porter and safety Brandon Meriweather. Nose tackle Barry Cofield spent eight games on short-term injured reserve. Reserve linebackers Sharpton, Adam Hayward and Jordan -- expected to help as reserves and on special teams -- also were placed on IR.
For a unit short on depth, it put them in a tough spot. They are not unique in their injury woes, but the Redskins say it made their lives difficult.
"It’s a domino effect," Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. "It’s a tough thing to go through, especially when it all hit on the same side of the ball. Coach [Jim] Haslett and the defensive coaches have done a good job of working with what they have, and the players have done a good job trying to come in here and learn as fast as they can."
Players and coaches have admitted at times to not knowing the full names of some of the newly signed guys, mainly because they had just arrived. Last week Haslett said he hadn’t seen some of the new players in pads until game day.
"We bring in guys and they get on the field," Redskins safety Ryan Clark said. "Usually you bring in guys and they just put them in uniforms."
As for Murphy, a broken bone in his right hand ended his season. He said the anticipated recovery is four to six weeks. Murphy said he hurt his hand when he hit the chest of Eagles tackle Jason Peters the wrong way as he tried to make an inside move.
"It kind of popped," Murphy said. "I tried to stay in a few more plays and it was a no-go."
Murphy started the season as a nickel linebacker, playing behind Ryan Kerrigan and Orakpo. When they lost Orakpo, they not only had to insert a new starter, but they lost the ability to use the packages they had planned for all three linebackers.
Now the question is, did Murphy prove enough as a starter to warrant having the job next season -- or would they re-sign pending free agent Orakpo?
"That’s above my pay grade," Murphy said. "As a player you’re always looking to be a starter and contribute any way you can. "I left a lot of plays on the field, made some, too. There’s definitely a lot more I can do and am capable of. I definitely have a lot of work ahead for me."