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Why Kenneth Murray is Ready for a Breakout Season

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Below are three takeaways from Chargers Defensive Coordinator Derrick Ansley, guard Zion Johnson and linebacker Kenneth Murray, Jr.'s media availability on Monday:

Murray's improvement in Year 4

Kenneth Murray, Jr., has been garnering praise from fellow coaches and teammates for his play during training camp thus far — and rightfully so.

The fourth-year linebacker has manned the middle of the Bolts defense and made plays, highlighted by an interception back on August 5.

Murray is feeling good about his training camp thus far, pointing to his mindset as a big part of it.

"I feel like it's been good," Murray said. "Just coming out and trying to make the most of every day. I feel like that's been my mindset. I feel like it's going well."

Murray has been lining up alongside fellow linebacker Eric Kendricks, as the two have been instrumental in the early communication on the defensive side of the ball.

Chargers Defensive Coordinator Derrick Ansley sees the improvement with Murray, noting some of the things that have stood out from the fourth-year linebacker so far.

"He has grown a lot. Kenneth is physically more talented than most people," Ansley said. "He is big, strong, fast. He's a really good person. This is really going to be the year that, I think, he can break out.

"He has had a really good training camp," Ansley added. "He is calm in there. He is seeing things at a high level. We're very proud of where he has come and I think that he has even more room to continue to get better."

Check out the best shots from the Chargers Preseason Week 1, 34-17, victory over the Rams at SoFi Stadium

Entering his fourth season, Murray said he feels very comfortable within Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley's defense.

But what has helped the linebacker progress even more in this year's camp has been his ability to participate in it, after missing most of last season's camp with an ankle injury.

"I feel good. I feel like I know this defense like the back of my hand," Murray said. "It's my third season [in the scheme]. It also just feels good to participate in training camp this year. That's something that I wasn't able to do last year. Being healthy, having a full offseason, has been something that's been a tremendous help for me."

"It's all part of it," Murray later added about being healthy during this offseason. "The more you get time-on-task, obviously, the better you're able to do things. It's the first time that I've had a fully healthy offseason in my career. I'm excited about that, being able to be with the family and be able to just focus on football and train."

Ansley agrees adding that not having to deal with an injury this season, in addition to the work Murray has put in all offseason, has been a big part of the strides he's shown so far.

"If the mind is feeling good, then the body feels good," Ansley said. "Now, I think that he is actually physically able to come out here and do his job at a high level.

"He had really good OTAs. He got all of those reps. He's been repping since we've been here," Ansley added. "All of those things are finally starting to pay dividends for his game out there."

Browse through live action photos of the Bolts Preseason Week 1 matchup against the Rams at SoFi Stadium.

Ansley talks pair of edge rushers

The Chargers defense got their first glimpse of another opponent Saturday night in their preseason opener against the Rams.

And the unit showed out, holding them to 17 points and limiting the opposing quarterbacks to 57.1 percent completion percentage.

Ansley was pleased with Saturday's defensive performance, praising the poise of some of the younger players in their first professional game.

"I thought that it was a good showing," Ansley said. "The guys got out there for the first time as a unit. We've been going against our offense for the last two-plus weeks, and that's been a challenge, so to get a chance to go out there and get some live action, it was really good.

"We had some young guys where it was their first time in a pro game, and I thought that those guys handled the variables and the circumstances very well," Ansley added.

One of the key areas that had a big impact during Saturday's matchup was the constant pressure the Chargers put on the Rams.

The team notched 4.0 sacks and 10 total quarterback hits while consistently pressured the passer all night. According to Pro Football Focus, the Bolts tallied 13 total hurries of the quarterback.

And one of the players that got it started was third year outside linebacker Chris Rumph II, who got the first sack of the game on the Rams first offensive drive.

"Consistency in his rush. He has gotten stronger," Ansley said about Rumph's development. "Chris is a pro. He knows the things that he needs to work on. He attacked those in the offseason. He came in here bigger and stronger.

"I think that you can see that in his day-to-day rushes, even against some of our guys," Ansley added.

And on the edge alongside Rumph was rookie outside linebacker Tuli Tuipulotu, who also had himself a good debut with a handful of pressures.

Tuipulotu tallied one official quarterback hit but made his presence known in the 11 snaps he played. The Bolts second rounder disrupted the Rams' first drive, reading a play-action fake perfectly and making the quarterback rush the throw. Then on the next play, he did the same.

Tuipulotu had come along strong during last week's practices—and Ansley believes his performance Saturday is no coincidence.

"Usually — and this is just my opinion — when you make plays at practice, you usually make plays in the game," Ansley said. "We've seen that from him, even back to college. He has a unique skillset, a style of play. He's rugged, tough.

"He plays the game the right way, so we're very, very proud of how he went out there and competed," Ansley added.

Running downhill

It was quite a debut for Chargers Offensive Coordinator Kellen Moore's new running game.

The Bolts were explosive and efficient on the ground Saturday, rushing 31 times for 214 yards (6.9 average). The game was highlighted by rookie running back Elijah Dotson, who capped off two long runs for touchdowns in the second half.

While the projected, new-look starting offensive line won't get their chance to get on the field together until Week 1, they've gotten a chance to see the downhill run game — and they're as excited about it as anyone.

Guard Zion Johnson raved about the new rushing scheme under Moore, adding that the unit believes they're more than capable of running downhill.

"All of us love it, we feel like we're built for the downhill run game," Johnson said. "We've got a lot of big strong guys and we're excited to add that aspect to our offense and really get after it."

Johnson played 16 snaps during Saturday's preseason opener as he continues to gear up towards his second season in the NFL.

Running downhill continues to be one of the things Johnson is most excited about under Moore, as it has allowed the line to stay aggressive.

"We're always trying to stay aggressive, whether we're pass set or running wide zone, different run plays," Johnson said. "But when you're downhill and you're bringing it to the defense it really amps you up early and gets you going."

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