The Chargers drafted quarterback Justin Herbert with the sixth overall pick in this year’s draft. They surprised many when they traded back into the first round and selected linebacker Kenneth Murray with the 23rd overall pick.
He is considered to be the quarterback of the defense. There is much excitement built around number 56 because of what he brings to an already talented defense.
“I feel like I fit right in the middle, flying around, running and hitting,” he said when asked where he fits in the scheme. “I feel like that’s what I do best.”
Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley would agree. He spoke to the media last week and was raving about what Murray brings to the defense.
“Well, he’s a big man,” said Bradley. “I think that’s what first jumps out. He’s, what, 240 pounds and can run well. So, he’s been a surprise as far as just how fast (in) how he’s picking it up. In college this last year, obviously, he did a great job defending the run, but a lot of what you saw him do was spying the quarterback in pass coverage. So, the little bit of the unknown was just how he was going to pick up some of the zone drops and coverages and aspects like that, but he’s done a really good job picking that up. So, he’s progressing well up to this point. I think the bar is moving in the right direction for him.”
It has been a slow start for the rookie linebacker in the first week of training camp. He dealt with a little bit of soreness, so the Chargers coaches wanted to be cautious with him.
“I was okay,” said Murray. “It was coaches trying to play it safe. For me, it definitely was frustrating because I am a guy that I hate being out. I hate being away from the guys. I feel out of place when I am not in the game and not around the guys. Just being out and having to watch from the back is something that hurts me because I am all ball.”
Murray wants to be out on the field. He showed week two of training camp how talented he is. He practiced with the starters a couple of times this week and was flying around. When the offense ran the ball, Murray was right there, wrapping up the back.
One of the big reasons why the Bolts brass loved Murray was his versatility. He doesn’t need to come off the field on third down when it is general passing downs.
“I feel like I’ve done a decent job,” Murray said. “I definitely got ways to go. I’m always constantly trying to get better. As of right now, I’ve been all right, but definitely got ways to go in that aspect and continue to get better every day. But it’s definitely something that I’m capable of being elite at.”
He isn’t where he wants to be yet in that area, but the former Sooner said he would continue to work.
Generally, in a Gus Bradley defense, they like to show their linebackers different positions. For example, their OTTO backer will learn MIKE, and so on.
“You know what? We’re trying to really lock him into one linebacker spot right now,” explained Bradley. “And I think it’s just trying to figure out where’s his level in zone drops and in pass coverage and things like that and is he a guy (that can do multiple things). Coach (Richard) Smith does a good job with all those guys trying to (say), ‘Hey, the more that you can do.’ Like Nick (Vigil), he can play OTTO; he can play MIKE; he can play WILL. And that benefits the players, and I think as you get to know them, that’s what you try to do.
“But right now, we’ve kind of got him locked in and just so that he can have some consistency day-to-day. And we’re moving Denzel (Perryman) and Drue Tranquill around just so that he can stay put.”
The linebackers group has been Kyzir White at OTTO, Murray at MIKE, and Drue Tranquill at WILL. This could be one of the most athletic backers group the Chargers have had in some time. White, along with Tranquill, are converted safeties, so they both can cover multiple positions on the field. Murray flies all over the field and is a sideline to sideline linebacker.
The Bolts adding Murray makes a defense that was already rich, even richer. When he first got in there, the rookie player said that he couldn’t believe all the talent the defense had in front of him on the defensive line.
“I see the big boys in front of me, and I just laugh,” Murray said. “I’ve never had three or four big boys like that in front of me before. All those guys upfront can play ball. Huge dudes. They’ll keep the big boys off of me.”
Now, Murray’s back story has been something very heartwarming from his parents adopting three children who have special needs, Murray saving someone’s life, and now he topped it off. Murray recently purchased a home for his parents. He said that they were moving in this weekend.
Murray said he is fulfilling a childhood dream.
“You grow up, and you see your parents making sacrifices so that you could be who you want to be,” he said. “I feel like it was my duty to just go out there and be able to put them in a nice place.”