Kenneth Murray was selected in a surprise move by the Chargers last year when they elected to trade their 2020 second and third-round picks to move back into the first to land the former Oklahoma linebacker.
As a rookie, Murray broke Derwin James’ single-season rookie tackle record with 106. Despite a slow start, he managed to find some positive momentum during the second half of the season. From week 10 and on, Murray recorded 52 tackles, four of his five tackles for loss, and his lone sack of the season, including a career-high 14 tackles against the Patriots in week 12.
Murray also showed some improvement in pass coverage. After mainly being asked to cover running backs out of the backfield at OU, Murray had to get used to dropping back five to 10 yards to defend tight ends and other short to intermediate routes.
Despite maybe not being as flashy as we’d all have liked him to be, Murray caught the eye of the folks at Pro Football Focus who believe the second-year linebacker is poised for another step forward in his sophomore campaign. In their most-recent rankings of the top-32 linebackers of 2021, Murray checks in at #23.
“Rookie linebackers have struggled hugely to hit the ground running in the NFL over recent years, but Kenneth Murray did as good a job as any of the bunch a season ago,” says author Sam Monson. “He endured the typical struggles in coverage but brought an obvious physical presence to the Chargers’ defense, making three pass breakups. Year 2 could be when we see Murray really emerge as a star at the position.”
As fast as Murray is, you could tell early on he was playing with too much hesitancy. Understandable as a rookie since he was the day one starter who wore the green dot as the player communicating with the sideline and calling out the defense. At one point, Murray actually had the green dot taken from him due to some continued confusion and lack of efficiency, but he later earned it back before finishing the year strong.
Murray has all the athleticism in the world for a an inside linebacker, but it’d be a shame to never utilize his skillset as a blitzer and potential edge threat on occasion. Like we’ve been saying since he was hired, if there’s anyone that can get the most out of Murray, it’ll be Brandon Staley.