With training camp and the preseason coming to a close, the 2021 NFL regular season feels closer than ever.
Back in the spring, general manager Tom Telesco said training camp would be the opportunity when the competition officially begins and with a lot of work being put in over the last month, the new schemes are starting to take shape.
Kenneth Murray Jr. is in his second scheme in two years but has high expectations for the defense and what its potential looks like in 2021.
"Best in the league, period," Murray Jr. said.
The linebacker elaborated by saying to get to that level, it starts with holding each other accountable.
"I think that's just the standard that we're setting for ourselves," he mentioned. "Every time we go out there, we're communicating with each other. Trying to be the best in the league and wanting to be the best in the league, it starts with that mindset. It starts with us setting that standard for ourselves and then going out and executing that. We understand that we have talent in the group. We understand that things may happen, guys may get injured, but at the end of the day, our standard's not gonna waver and we expect to be the best in the league."
In the team's first two preseason games, the Bolts defense has held its opponents to under 20 points per game, something Staley was pleased with, especially after having joint practices with the 49ers as well.
"We expect to [do that,] Staley said. "Those are two good offensive teams that we played. I know [the Rams] didn't play a lot of their frontline players but neither did we. I respect both those offenses. I think especially competing against San Francisco in the practices where you're playing their who group outside of Trent Williams, I felt like we were able to measure ourselves. I think we have a pretty good idea of where we are right now. There's still room for us. A ton of it."
But as for that room, while the regular season is near, Staley, defensive coordinator Renaldo Hill, and the players are fine tuning to get ready for what Week 1 will bring and beyond to hopefully see Murray Jr.'s prediction through.
"I like the way we're trending as a unit and the way we're playing together; I think they're really starting to understand the way we want to play all three levels of the defense," Staley said. "And then from a scheme standpoint, we still have some time. We still have three weeks before we play our first game. It's just how is this thing gonna take shape from a scheme standpoint."
Odds & Ends
Staley on the progression of WR Joshua Palmer: "I think that the vision that we had for Joshua Palmer is expressing itself. I feel like the player we thought that he could be, he's probably better than what we thought. The one thing in college that you guys are aware of, the quarterback situation that he was in at the University of Tennessee, so to be able to see him operate with a premium quarterback like [QB] Justin [Herbert], I think that you're able to see the guy that we thought that he could be.
Murray Jr. on S Derwin James: "DJ is a guy that just loves ball. I feel like I can relate to him so well because we just have that same love, just love playing football. You could put me on the other side of the world, in like Antarctica, and give me a football and I'll be fine. He has that same attitude. He loves the game, he wants to be the best. He's competing to be the best. When you have guys like that on the team, it makes it easier for everyone else around you. I enjoy competing with him and I enjoy being out there with him. Looking forward to dominating this season with him."
Palmer on working with Justin Herbert: "Justin and I are alike in that we always think we need to do better. I said a while ago that we both take the blame for things. It helps when we both try to figure out what we need to fix to help a play be successful. These extra reps help us. He'll tell me he needs to work on dig routes I'll tell him I need to work on my over-the-shoulder, so he'll throw to me over the shoulder. There's mutual respect and understanding that we both want to get better. We have a lot of receivers, like Keenan Allen and others, who are working extra. We take a lot of pride in working extra."
Check out the best photos from the Bolts Tuesday practice at Hoag Performance Center.
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