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Bengals Training Camp Battle: Joseph Ossai vs Myles Murphy

  • Justin Melo
  • July 31, 2023
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The Cincinnati Bengals drafted former Clemson EDGE Myles Murphy with the No. 28 overall selection in the 2023 NFL Draft. Murphy projects as a rotational defender and situational pass rusher as a rookie. He’ll be in contention with third-year outside linebacker Joseph Ossai for Cincinnati’s No. 3 edge role.

Barring injury, Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard will continue to serve as the starters. Hendrickson has led the Bengals in sacks in back-to-back seasons with a combined 22 quarterback takedowns. Hubbard is a terrific early-down defender and edge-setter, so it’s difficult to see him losing his starting gig. Hubbard has also elevated his pass-rushing game to new heights, having totaled 14.0 sacks across 2021 and 2022.

Despite the impressive outputs from Hendrickson and Hubbard, secondary options have been an issue. The Bengals recorded a 29th-ranked 30.0 sacks in 2022. That’s less than two sacks per game. That’s where Murphy and Ossai could have an impact.

Murphy was outstanding for the Clemson Tigers. Murphy accumulated 18.5 sacks, 36 tackles for loss, and six forced fumbles throughout his illustrious three-year career. If Murphy can quickly acclimate to the pro ranks, he’ll get himself on the field for critical passing downs. The 6-foot-4, 268-pounder is a scheme-versatile defender that could play various roles in Cincinnati. Murphy’s rare blend of size, length, first-step explosiveness, and flexibility makes him a difficult opponent for offensive tackles. Murphy’s diverse rush plan allows him to threaten tackles of all shapes, sizes, and skill sets.

Ossai will push Murphy to be Cincinnati’s top-choice DPR (Designated Pass Rusher).

The 2022 campaign was essentially Ossai’s rookie year after the former Texas standout suffered a season-ending meniscus tear in August of 2021. A healthy Ossai flashed throughout the season. He managed to stay healthy, appearing in 16 regular-season contests. Ossai played 334 snaps, which accounted for more than 32% of Cincinnati’s defensive plays. Ossai recorded 3.5 sacks via just 224 pass-rushing opportunities. He totaled 25 pressures, 15 hurries, and six additional quarterback hits, via Pro Football Focus. 

Ossai is hoping to take a step forward in 2023, but Murphy has designs on claiming his role. By all accounts, Murphy was impressive throughout rookie minicamp, OTAs, and then full-team minicamp. You can never have too many quarterback hunters, and a good problem is developing for Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo as he sorts through his available pass-rushing snaps.

Applying more pressure on opposing quarterbacks is key to the Bengals achieving their lofty goals in 2023. The AFC runs through Cincinnati, but it also runs through Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs, and Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills. The Bengals sacked Mahomes on three occasions in their 23-20 AFC Championship Game defeat, yet he still threw for 326 yards and two touchdowns. Additional pressure could have had a larger impact on Mahomes’ pocket presence.

The Bengals are hoping that better depth will lead to greater results in the sacks category. Pitting Ossai against Murphy throughout training camp and the preseason should lead to both men improving. The Bengals are well-positioned to apply more pressure on quarterbacks in 2023 than they did in 2022.

Written By

Justin Melo