COSTA MESA — A couple of Los Angeles Chargers defenders walked over to the sidelines before team drills Saturday and were overhead saying the words, “I love the taste of blood,” before competing against the offense.
That statement let it be known that the defense was dialed in this time around on Day 6 of Chargers camp at Jack Hammett Sports Complex. And in the end, there were more takeaways and pass breakups than deep-ball completions and touchdowns for the Bolts in front of their fans.
Los Angeles Chargers Practice Report: Kenneth Murray and JT Woods Among Defensive Standouts
Among the defensive highlights were a pair of past Big 12 stars — former Oklahoma Sooner Kenneth Murray and the towering safety from Baylor, JT Woods.
Murray — known more for playing a rugged downhill style that’s led to 214 career tackles and 135 solo stops across three NFL seasons — stepped in front of a bobbled short checkdown throw to the running back and came away with the ball, taking it back for the pick-six.
— Chargers Country (@ChargersCountry) August 5, 2023
Murray is coming off a 2022 season that saw him deliver his first career pick in a live game. But this time, he showed a strong set of eyes in reading the short throw and coming away with the takeaway.
Murray had an overall stellar day — even accidentally hitting Justin Herbert on a linebacker blitz after going full speed during the same team drills. However, that wasn’t all from the Midwest collegiate representation.
The third-rounder from the 2022 NFL Draft, Woods used his 6’2″ height, range, and nearly 33″ arm length to become the swat king of the day. Woods delivered a strong closing pursuit to the football toward the sideline during a 7-on-7 drill for the first pass breakup. Then, Woods sharply backpedaled before showing the 4.36 speed that made him a Day 2 pick to break up a potential touchdown.
Outside of Murray, safety Alohi Gilman stepped in front near his left sideline to snatch the Chargers’ second interception of practice. The 25-year-old earned five starts at one of the safety spots last season and delivered career-best numbers in total tackles (58), solo stops (35), pass breakups (three), and fumble recoveries (two).
Josh Palmer Addresses Being Pushed by Intriguing Rookie Quentin Johnston
Meanwhile, on offense, Josh Palmer is aiming to stay healthy after being limited to 11 starts last season. But now, he’s facing new competition in the WR room with the presence and continued trajectory of rookie Quentin Johnston.
Palmer, however, calmly responded to one question about his take of a rising newcomer in the room who’s starting to threaten for more playing time.
“That’s bound to happen every year. I mean, since college, they recruit the best athletes,” Palmer said, referencing his days at the University of Tennessee. “So you know, they’re drafting the best players to help us win games. As long as the coaches have trust in those players, we have trust in those players as well.”
Palmer adds that he’s one who’s taking a liking to “Q’s” game on the football field.
Johnson delivered the lone deep-ball reception on the day — which saw needing to adjust to Deane Leonard and cradle the ball in to ensure the completion.
— Los Angeles Chargers (@chargers) August 5, 2023
Former Undrafted Free Agent Showing Major Strides
If there was one other offensive highlight on what was rather a dominating defensive day, it’s former undrafted rookie John Hightower continuing to take advantage of opportunities.
The former Boise State Bronco caught the first deep pass toward the right sideline in 7-on-7 competition. But then he came back later and scored a red-zone touchdown during the team session.
Hightower hasn’t started in a game since 2020 when he was with the Philadelphia Eagles — the same campaign that saw him crack the starting lineup four times.
Quote of the Day and Notable Absences
“I want to be the linebacker that you know can cover any guy on the field. And it’s more than just talking. I’m trying to prove that. When I’m able to show the people that I can do that and show my coaches that I can do that, I hope that shines,” Chargers rookie linebacker Daiyan Henley said on impacting LA through his versatility.
The native of Los Angeles, who is having a homecoming after starring at Washington State, additionally described being around Murray and Pro Bowl addition Eric Kendricks as a blessing.
Lastly, the Chargers practiced without three starters on defense: Edge rusher Joey Bosa (illness), nose tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day (quad injury), and cornerback J.C. Jackson was given what a Chargers spokesperson described as a “recovery day,” as Jackson is dealing with soreness from his surgically repaired knee during the offseason.
Also not at practice were offensive tackle Rashawn Slater and tight end Gerald Everett, who, like Bosa, are both dealing with an illness.