Despite being teammates for multiple seasons, there are several members of the 2021 Chargers defense who have yet to play meaningful snaps together.
This includes the linebacker pairing of Kenneth Murray and Drue Tranquill, who head coach Brandon Staley said Wednesday are both "having really good camps." Five defensive snaps into the 2020 opener at Cincinnati, Tranquill suffered an ankle injury that ended his sophomore season. Now full strength, Tranquill will pair with Murray in Staley's defensive scheme.
A year late, but worth the wait.
"You want as many complete players as possible," Staley said. "I think Drue and Kenneth are both complete linebackers. When you have two linebackers that can do similar things, I think that's a real advantage for you.
"They're both athletic. They can both run and cover. They're both outstanding in the run game. They both can blitz. They have a lot of linebacker/DB/pass rusher qualities."
Murray finished his first season with 16 starts and a team-high 959 defensive snaps. He set the Chargers' all-time rookie record for total tackles in a season with 107, surpassing safety Derwin James Jr.'s previous mark of 105.
Last week, Murray expressed his excitement about playing in a scheme that allows him to blitz and play more downhill. He also said he and Tranquill are "meshing together well" in camp.
"I feel like we have a lot of guys, especially in our group, that all can play [at a high level], but Drue is a guy, you know, that can play," Murray said. "We are both guys that can fly around."
The admiration cuts both ways. On Wednesday, Tranquill called Murray a brother and praised his energy and passion for the game.
"I mean, Kenneth is a freak of nature," Tranquill said. "This guy is 250 [pounds], can run in the 4.4 [seconds for a 40-yard dash]. He's really physical. I'm more — with my experience at safety — more coverage-oriented. We complement each other well in those regards. I think we're both really good, all-around football players, so we're able to play off of one another."
Tranquill, a fourth-round selection in 2019, established himself early on special teams in his rookie season. He also made three starts that year, including a 14-tackle performance against the Raiders in Week 10 and a seven-tackle game (three for loss) in Week 12 against the Broncos.
"The thing about Drue, he is so sharp mentally," Staley said. "He's going into his third season. This guy knows a lot of ball. He plays far more mature than his years. What he can help Kenneth with is just that little extra reminder. Sometimes, as a young player, all you need is a little thing before the snap that allows you to play your best. Drue can give that. He thinks like a coach."
On the first day of camp, Staley said the inside linebackers will be a strength of the team. That starts with 4-9 and K-9.
Odds and Ends
- Staley said offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga was given a veteran's day off on Wednesday. "This is that perfect first day for him before an off day," Staley added. "We wanted to have a veteran off day, then an off day, and then have him back next week for a really important week because we finish with a scrimmage in the stadium. We wanted him full speed for next week."
- Guard Matt Feiler praised center Corey Linsley for his ability to "pick apart defenses" and get the offensive line in the right positions to be successful. Feiler was also complementary of the way rookie offensive tackle Rashawn Slater has picked up things early in camp. "He's taking big strides and he's looking good," Feiler said.
- Tranquill recognized his college teammate Alohi Gilman's pass break-up in Wednesday's two-minute portion of practice. "It only gets better when the pads come on with Alohi," Tranquill added. "He's a physical safety. He has really good hips and is really quick in and out of his breaks. He can play in the deep part of the field, as well. He brings a huge element to our defense and, obviously, our special teams as well."
- Each of the Chargers' next three practices will be padded, according to Staley. "Establishing our practice tempo and routine, I think it was important, being brand new, that we really establish our way of doing things," he said. "I think we've done that through seven practices. Now, we feel like we're ready to play the game completely, with pads on, and do it so that we can grow as a team."
Take a look at some of the best photos from the seventh day of Chargers Training Camp 2021.
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