When Brandon Staley was hired as the head coach and his defensive scheme was brought up, it seemed like a perfect fit for Chargers second-year linebacker Kenneth Murray. On Tuesday afternoon, he spoke to the media and agreed about the defensive system.
"I feel like his scheme fits me 100% to my strengths, and so I'm excited," said Murray. "I think it's going to be a great year."
So why exactly does Murray like Staley and defensive coordinator Renaldo Hill's scheme so much?
"Coach Staley wants to be blitzing a lot more and just allow me to be what I am and taking advantage of all my physical abilities," explained Murray. "So, that's one thing I love about him is just that he's always trying to put us in the right position to make plays."
Murray is coming off a rookie season that had his ups and downs. He was benched week nine against the Las Vegas Raiders last year but was the only bright spot when the Bolts experienced the worst loss in franchise history against the New England Patriots in week 13.
He finished his first year with 107 tackles, five tackles for loss, and a sack.
"I don't think there was ever a point where I was just like fully comfortable," said Murray. "Given the scheme that I was playing last year, I kind of felt like it was kind of something I had never done before being able to run with over routes, and special routes and different things like that. It was just something that was new. So, it just took me a while to get used to this."
It feels like there will be a massive difference between the scheme last year to this year. One of the main takeaways from the press conference was how excited Murray was when speaking about the defensive scheme. Hill shared the same emotion.
"Obviously, you notice his athletic ability and size. I think he has a great command at the linebacker position," explained Hill. "But we want to put him in positions where he's used to his skill set, he's able to run sideline to sideline, and he's big enough to plug it up in the middle. So, we see that he's a flex guy, and we want to try to use all those attributes to really get him going in this game."
Murray has been sidelined for a time this offseason due to shoulder surgery he had early in the offseason to repair something he hurt while he was still at Oklahoma.
"It definitely didn't go exactly the way that I planned it to go," admitted Murray. "Obviously, I planned on just having a regular offseason, but I got the news. I needed to have surgery at the end of the season. So, I guess that's been the most different thing about it."
He mentioned on Tuesday that he hurt his shoulder his senior year of college, and last year anytime he used it to tackle, it hurt for 30 seconds, and then he felt fine. He got an MRI and got the news.
He has yet to be cleared by the doctors, but Murray feels ready to go.
"To be honest with you, if you asked me to play a game right now, I feel like I could play a game right now," said an eager Murray. "But since we have so much time, they just want to take things extremely slowly, extremely cautious."
The second-year linebacker is working out, lifting, and participating in offseason workouts. It helps to have on-the-field workouts rather than everything via Zoom, like in Murray's rookie season.
Something new also to OTAs is the way Staley is conducting the workouts. He is letting guys walk through for 11 on 11 and full speed during individual periods.
"I think is really smart," said Murray about Staley's offseason program. "For one, it allows guys to be able to learn a defense and be fast and understand the concepts, but I think also it protects us as players. You don't want anybody to get hurt in OTAs."
What is his biggest takeaway from his head coach?
"He listens to his players, I think that's one of the biggest things he listens to his players," explained Murray. "On top of that schematically, he tries to play matchups on defense. I think that's really been the biggest thing I've noticed."
He is excited to get back on the field and be next to fellow linebacker Drue Tranquill, who only played in the first ten minutes of last season. He was hurt in week one against the Bengals.
Murray feels confident about himself going into Staley and Hill's new defense, but he also feels optimistic about this defense as a whole.
"It's going to be cool to have him next to me," said Murray. "It's going to be two guys out there that's going to be flying around making plays. I'm excited by everybody on our defense, I think we have every piece that we need to be successful in this league, and I think we need to go out there and get it done."