He led the Chargers in tackles a year ago, Kenneth Murray Jr.’s total of 107 the second-most among NFL rookies.
Murray was the only Chargers defender to start all 16 games in 2020, manning the middle from his linebacker position.
On Sunday at Houston, his evolution in Brandon Staley’s scheme will take another step when Murray is expected to start on the edge in place of Pro Bowl pass rusher Joey Bosa.
“He definitely has all of the physical attributes to be on the edge,” said Uchenna Nwosu, who will start on the side opposite Murray. “I’m excited to see Kenneth play. He’s putting in the work.”
Staley said the plan is to start Murray against the Texans with Bosa on the COVID-19 reserve list. Bosa tested positive this week and was immediately ruled out for the game Sunday.
The Chargers lost another starting defender — tackle Justin Jones — on Friday when he became the 12th player on the active roster to be placed on the virus list.
The others include running back Austin Ekeler, center Corey Linsley, cornerback Tevaughn Campbell, wide receiver Jalen Guyton, quarterback Chase Daniel, kick returner Andre Roberts, defensive lineman Joe Gaziano, edge rusher Chris Rumph II and defensive backs Kemon Hall and Trey Marshall.
Other than Bosa and Hall, Staley reiterated Friday that the others still could pass the necessary tests in order to play at Houston. The weekly deadline for making roster moves arrives at 1 p.m. PST Saturday.
The Texans, having put more than 20 players on the COVID list, also are dealing with significant absences. The game remains as scheduled.
The Chargers drafted Murray in the first round — No. 23 overall — in April 2020. General manager Tom Telesco traded two draft picks to move up in order to select Murray.
The rookie out of Oklahoma was immediately plugged into then-defensive coordinator Gus Bradley’s system and instructed to use his abundant athletic talents to make tackles.
Murray remained inside in Staley’s defense to open this…