MONTREAL — Jim Barker figures Rob Murphy could be the best offensive lineman in the Canadian Football League.
And it’s not just a case of a head coach trying to pump the tires of one of his own players.
Montreal Alouettes defensive end John Bowman and his teammates noticed a new Rob Murphy of sorts when they were watching game film of the Argos to prepare for Thursday night.
“We were talking about this earlier and we were thinking that Murphy is getting back to the way he played in B.C.,” Bowman said. “He’s starting to round back into his shape from a couple of years ago.
“Their front five is nasty. They play aggressive and hard to the whistle, and we know it’s going to be physical.”
Murphy arrived at training camp nearly two months ago a refreshed man, with some off-field issues resolved and prepared to make a positive impression on a new coaching staff. Four games into the 2010 regular season, the Argos offensive line has been receiving kudos for its play as a whole, and has been a significant factor in running back Cory Boyd’s breakout.
For the 33-year-old Murphy, having the confidence in himself to put behind a brutal 2009 season was crucial. Now that he is hearing that opponents are talking about him, it’s clear the refocusing mentally has paid off.
“It’s a sense of respect,” said Murphy, who signed a two-year deal as a free agent with Toronto in February of 2009. “It’s a good feeling that you are being recognized on film that you are doing some positive for your team.”
Bowman will line up against Murphy, the Argos left tackle. And where Bowman has compliments for Murphy and the rest of the Argos O-line, Murphy gives it right back.
“It’s the best (opposing) defensive line in the CFL, I think,” Murphy said. “They can be up 40-0 or it’s a close game, and without looking at the scoreboard, you can’t tell. They are tenacious and go after the quarterback on every play.”
Bowman had a huge game last week against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, recording a career-high four sacks, three tackles and two forced fumbles, a performance that earned him unanimous CFL defensive player-of-the-week honours. It will be up to Murphy and his colleagues to ensure that Bowman, Anwar Stewart and the rest of the Als defensive line doesn’t have a similar impact against quarterback Cleo Lemon.
“Watching (Murphy) week in and week out, I am not sure there is a better offensive lineman in the league right now,” Barker said. “He has been dominant. It is all five of them, but Rob Murphy is a leader. I think Rob is embarrassed by the year he had last year. He is everything now that you would hope he would be.”