COSTA MESA, Calif. — To describe Kenneth Murray’s first three seasons with the Chargers as a rollercoaster would be applicable. There has been some good, but there also has been some bad.
His rookie season was a learning curve; in 2021, they moved him to the edge, then brought him back to the backer the following season, and last season was maybe his best season.
This season could be different for Murray, who is going into his fourth season and third in the Brandon Staley defensive scheme.
“I feel like I know this defense like the back of my hand,” Murray said.
So much so that when the Chargers signed former all-pro linebacker Eric Kendricks, he looked toward Murray for guidance.
“Me and K9 [Murray Jr.] have been working really well together,” Kendricks said. “It’s been really good playing with him. I feel like we’re feeding off each other.”
They had a relationship before Kendricks came to the Chargers, as they both bonded over their love of cars.
In April, they attended a car drifting show in Long Beach and have grown quite close since Kendricks signed with the team.
“It’s just been like a big brother,” he said. “He has been somebody that I looked up to in this league. Having the opportunity to be able to play next to him, it’s been something that I look forward to every day.”
Their relationship has even shown up during practice. When the Chargers offense breaks the huddle, both communicate and shout out what they see.
When one makes a play, the other is quick to come in and celebrate.
“Him and Eric Kendricks are in there having fun,” safety Derwin James said.
Murray has faced challenges in the past with missing tackles or inadequate play recognition, but Staley and the defense have stuck with him.
“You’ve seen more play-making, you’ve seen the physicality,” Staley said. “You’ve seen the speed that, I think, you guys have seen, at times, but now you’re seeing it with a lot more consistency. He’s having a very quality camp for us.”
This team hasn’t been good against the run in the last two seasons, but so far in camp, it looks like they have improved. Well, that starts with Murray, who has had some strong performances.
He is going against a formidable offensive line, so to see him shoot through and wrap up Austin Ekeler or Joshua Kelley is a sight that excites his teammates.
“To me, this has been his best camp since he’s been here, and I’m not just saying that,” James said. “He’s flying around, more confident. He believes in the defense.”
Interestingly, this is the first camp he hasn’t been recovering from surgery or had an injury. He has been healthy, so taking those starters reps has helped him grow as a player.
“The more you get time-on-task, obviously, the better you’re able to do things,” he explained. “It’s the first time that I’ve had a fully healthy offseason in my career.”
Staley usually doesn’t play his starters during the preseason, so Murray sat against the Rams last Saturday. He won’t have to wait until week one, though, to put this to the test.
The Chargers have two joint practices against the New Orleans Saints on Thursday and Friday, so he will have the opportunity to hit someone else.
“This is our house,” Murray said. “We want to come out here and defend it. Just being able to go out against somebody else is going to be tremendous.”
This is a big season for Murray because the team decided not to exercise his fifth-year option, so he will be a free agent.
His teammates and coaches keep talking him up, so this season will be the opportunity to show them he has grown in his development and why he should be considered a focal point of this defense.
“Kenneth is physically more talented than most people,” defensive coordinator Derrick Ansley said. “This is really going to be the year that, I think, he can break out.”