COSTA MESA — Chargers linebacker Kenneth Murray needed two trainers to help him walk off the field and into the locker room during the first drive last week against the Dallas Cowboys.
Murray’s agony while trainers examined his ankle made it surprising he was able to return for the second drive.
Drue Tranquill, Murray’s backup, was needed for only nine defensive snaps while Murray was in the locker room. Tranquill played only two defensive snaps the rest of the game.
Tranquill, the standout rookie from 2019, has fallen off the Chargers’ linebacker rotation. Kyzir White won the second starting linebacker position after impressing the new coaching staff with his versatility in training camp.
But Chargers coach Brandon Staley said Wednesday that he plans on using Tranquill more in games. He’s probably open to tinkering with his defensive rotations because the unit has struggled in the first two games of the season.
The Chargers are allowing 162 rushing yards per game, third worst in the NFL. Last week, they allowed 14 points in the first quarter against the Cowboys and couldn’t get a stop before Greg Zuerlein’s game-winning 56-yard field goal.
The growing pains are noticeable for Staley’s defense, but he sees the potential in his inexperienced defensive players.
Murray, the 2020 first-round pick with high expectations, displayed toughness by returning to the game, but he continued his inconsistent play by missing tackles and allowing playmakers to gain extra yards.
“I think up and down,” Staley said about Murray’s play this season. “I think there have been some really good moments, some really good moments. And then, there have been some moments that we need to have him improve. That’s part about seeing the game, understanding his style of play versus what’s on the other side of the football, understanding where he fits in within our defense.
“He needs to improve for us, just like a lot of guys. I think that the exciting thing is that he’s such a hard worker, he’s a great person, he’s a good competitor, so I think that you’re going to see him continue to improve.”
Tranquill was one of the Chargers’ top playmakers as a rookie in 2019. He missed most of last season after breaking his ankle in the first quarter against the Cincinnati Bengals in the season opener.
If Staley decides to tinker with his defense, that could create an opportunity for Tranquill.
“Drue’s playing well,” Staley said. “We’re going to get him on the football field, that’s for sure. He played well in the Dallas game. He’s practicing great. It’s one thing I said in the preseason, I do feel like he’s a starter. We’re trying to unpack that rotation right now. I think that so much about the beginning of the year is trying to get that right.
“But Drue, we’re extremely pleased with his progress. He’s doing a tremendous job as a core-four special teams player, but he’s a starting-caliber linebacker in this league. I know that we’re really happy to have him. I think you’ll continue to see him play more and more.”
ADDERLEY’S DISLOCATED FINGER
Safety Nasir Adderley revealed Wednesday that he has a dislocated finger on his right hand and that it’s affecting how he catches the ball.
Adderley has dropped two possible interceptions this season, including last week in the end zone when he got his hands on a pass intended for Cowboys tight end Blake Jarwin.
“I’m trying to figure out a way how I can come down with those plays because that’s plays I’ve made all my life,” Adderley said. “I’m going to be fine. I got a splint on it because I was doing hand therapy and stuff like that. So I’m going to work hard at it and I’m gonna find a way to come down with those balls.”
Adderley said he sustained the finger injury in college and that it’s gotten progressively worse.
Staley said before Wednesday’s practice that a few players would sit out for rest and precautionary reasons.
Safety Derwin James and edge rusher Joey Bosa might fall under those categories because they didn’t participate in practice. James was on the injury report with a toe injury and Bosa was listed with foot and ankle injuries.
Bosa told reporters Monday that he wasn’t concerned about the ankle he rolled against the Cowboys last week. James also missed last Wednesday’s practice, but practiced fully the rest of the week.
“We’ve got some guys that are sore and we may hold some guys out as more precautionary for today,” Staley said. “I like to give guys one extra day, especially the guys who have played a lot of ball in the league. So a lot of times if we do that, it’s just more precautionary knowing that tomorrow’s the big work day.”
Defensive tackle Justin Jones (calf) and cornerback Chris Harris Jr. (shoulder) continue to be sidelined at practice. The starters missed the game against the Cowboys.
Staley said he expects Jones to return to practice later in the week, but he wasn’t as optimistic about Harris.
— Los Angeles Chargers (@chargers) September 22, 2021