Below are three takeaways from Monday's press conferences with Brandon Staley, Kenneth Murray Jr. and Corey Linsley
Murray Jr. returns as a hybrid linebacker
One of the plans Brandon Staley had when taking the new job as head coach of the Chargers was to develop second year linebacker Kenneth Murray Jr. into a hybrid-style linebacker. At six-foot-two, 241 pounds, Staley saw Murray as the ideal player to play both inside linebacker and edge rusher in order to tap into the versatility and athleticism that Murray has used going back to his college days at Oklahoma.
The Bolts' Week 10 matchup gave Murray Jr. the opportunity to showcase his new role for the first time after missing the previous five games with an ankle injury.
On Monday, he talked about how he felt lining up from both spots.
"It went well," Murray Jr. said. "I feel like there are things I can do to be better. As we're going throughout the game, I kept talking to my coach [Defensive Line/OLBs], saying, 'Man, I see this. I can shoot it here; I can be better here to make more impact plays.' But it went well. That plan started to develop as I started to come back and get healthier. Just talking about giving me more of a role on the edge, and also playing inside backer as well, which I feel is good. I like that role because it allows me to be multiple and show my versatility."
Staley talked about how the 'high-level' performance from fellow linebacker Kyzir White has allowed Murray Jr. to settle into his new role.
"What that has done for us is allow us to really bring [LB] Kenneth [Murray Jr.] along in a lot of different ways over the last couple of weeks since the injury," Staley said. "I thought you saw that on display yesterday. I felt like they played well together yesterday. We were trying to get K9 [Murray] into a rhythm — made sure that his conditioning was OK, too, because this was his first game back in a while. You were able to see him in a variety of locations. I was happy with the way that he played in his first game back and I think that Kyzir had a lot to do with that."
Sitting out five games was a tough challenge according to Murray. He talked about how he was able to use his time off the field to develop his game in different aspects.
"I just tried to find ways to continue to get better," Murray said. "Whether that was being here early in the morning, watching film with my coach, or continuing to work in rehab. Doing everything I can to be able to get back. And also, when I get back, being able to see things clearer. Just trying to continue to get better, in spite of being out. That's the only thing I can control, and, in that moment, it was just get better."
Communication key on offensive line
Veteran center Corey Linsley is a key piece to the new group of offensive linemen the Chargers added during the offseason. Now nine games in to the 2021 season, Linsley talked about how the offensive line has grown and how they're working on avoiding and fixing inconsistencies on gamedays.
"There's a long list of things that we can improve on," Linsley said. "The guys in the room are all great, and they come to work every day, and we have the right thing on our mind. I feel like [Run Game Coordinator/OL] Frank [Smith] and [Assistant Offensive Line] Shaun [Sarrett] are fantastic guys. We've come a long way from training camp, but we obviously didn't play well enough to win [Sunday.] Team loss, team win — however you want to paint it each week — it is what it is. We have to keep growing, we have to keep communicating, and talking about the different issues that come up. That's how we'll get where we want to be."
Linsley talked about how key communicating with his fellow offensive linemen is and recalled a moment in the Patriots game where he and Chargers guard Michael Schofield III, who re-joined the Bolts mid-season, had a conversation in order to correct some inconsistencies and get on the same page.
It's something the players have continued to do week-in and week-out.
"That type of thing has been happening," he said about having an open dialogue. "And I feel like to keep growing, to keep getting better, to lessen the inconsistencies, we just need to keep pushing through."
Odds & Ends
Corey Linsley on Larry Rountree III's touchdown celebration: "We loved it, I know he's a Q-Dog (Omega Psi Phi Fraternity member) and he was stepping not dancing, we learned that today. We were excited for Larry to score his first [touchdown]…Larry's a guy that brings great energy every day to practice and runs hard. He's the kind of guy that's easy to get behind and block for as are all the running backs, they're all great guys and we love them all."
Brandon Staley on involving the tight ends in the passing game: "We have to continue to feature that group. I think so much of offense is going into a gameplan and finding that sweet spot for your players, and then your players having that understanding that each week is going to be a little bit different and your role may be a little bit different within the plan. I think tight end is a position that is especially like that, because the run game can be a big component in it, too; how you want to run the ball. We're going to continue to try and do our best to get those guys in the right spots."
Brandon Staley on how Kyzir White is playing this year: "Kyzir White is playing at a high level for an NFL linebacker. He has the entire season. He started, really, with an outstanding training camp, and then he's just gotten better and better as the season has gone on. He's a commander. He can really see the game. He's calm. He's physical. He's outstanding in pass coverage. He can blitz. He's a complete linebacker. He had 12 tackles yesterday. That physicality that he brings to the table, he had a big tackle for a loss. He's outstanding in past coverage. He's a general out there. He's the type of guy that we definitely want to be joining up with, playing defense with. I'm really proud of the way that he's playing.
Brandon Staley on an update on Michael Davis' hamstring injury: "The plan, according to the injury report this morning, is for him to be able to work back into practice this week. I don't know if he'll play in the game, but I know that he's going to try and work back into practice. He's progressing well. He had a hamstring maybe a year ago or a couple of years ago. This is definitely not as severe as the last one. He's been working hard at it. Look forward to seeing him in practice this week."
Brandon Staley on Drue Tranquill: "He is still in the COVID[-19] protocols for right now."
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