At this point in the offseason, the expectations for players across the NFL are either rising or falling depending on the specific moves made by each team in free agency and the most recent NFL draft. When certain expectations reach a boiling point, combined with the specific environments surrounding these players, it starts to paint a picture for a potential “breakout” season. Usually, this is a second or third-year player who finally gets to step out of the shadows of a veteran no longer on the roster. But sometimes, it can be a rookie who landed in the perfect situation.
Bleacher Report’s Gary Davenport went team-by-team on Monday and circled one player on each squad that he believes is primed for a breakout year based on the right combination of criteria listed above. For the Chargers, that player is linebacker Kenneth Murray.
Murray steps into a linebacker room devoid of a tried-and-true veteran presence. Denzel Perryman is now the lone veteran among the group but his lack of availability over the years has stopped him from ever solidifying a legacy with the team. Drue Tranquill, heading into his second year with the team, is likely to be the future of the second-level of this defense along with Murray as the two grow together through the years.
With his sideline-to-sideline range, Murray has the opportunity to rack up the tackles this year the same way Thomas Davis did in 2019. As Davenport mentions in his article, the Chargers may not actually want Murray to have a big year tackle-wise because that could mean there are a lot of tackles to be made. That usually means the defense is on the field a lot and opponents are sustaining lengthy drives.
Davenport likens Murray to past linebacker who broke out early on in their careers, like the Cowboys’ Leighton Vander Esch, the Colts’ Darius Leonard, and the Bears’ Roquan Smith. All three are names that garnered respect soon after they stepped foot on a professional field and Murray has all the talent in the world to do the same.
Since the Chargers gave up valuable draft capital to land the former Sooner, he’s probably a really safe bet to lead the 2020 Chargers draft class in snaps as a rookie. If he does that, he’ll have ample chances to stake his claim as one of the best defenders in the NFL. In fact, in a recent interview with Ian Rapoport, Murray mentioned that he made all of the defensive calls on the field in each of his three years at Oklahoma. That probably weighed heavy with Anthony Lynn and did wonders for his confidence in the team trading up to go get him in the first round.
Anthony Lynn on LB Kenneth Murray: "He was one of my favorite players in the draft." #Chargers— Daniel Popper (@danielrpopper) May 8, 2020
It looks to be a young man’s game when it comes to how Lynn wants this linebacker group to shape-up going forward. As of right now, Perryman is the oldest at 27 with Nick Vigil being the second-oldest at 26. Those two are followed by Tranquill (24), Kyzir White (24), Malik Jefferson (23), and Murray (21).
Should things go as planned, this team is going to have some prime years of linebacker play in the near future.