What the Bills Need:
With Alexander Loronzo’s recent retirement, the Bills will be looking to find a successor. Through Lorenzo’s tenure with the Bills, he provided a strong sense of leadership and has been a role model for this young Bills team. At some point this off-season, this team will need to find an answer at linebacker.
Whether it’s through the draft, free agency, or turning to young, unproven Vosean Joseph who missed most of this year with a shoulder injury has yet to be seen. Kenneth Murray from Oklahoma could be a draft option for this Bills’ front office. He is a proven leader and was a tackling machine during his time with the Sooners. Depending on how the draft falls, we could see the Bills use their first-round pick on this speedy prospect.
Murray was the starting middle linebacker for the Sooners 3-3-5 defense all three years. He started every game for them while he was there and never missed time due to an injury. Throughout his career, Murray was asked to be the quarterback of the Oklahoma defense. He had the responsibility of calling plays and audibles pre-snap. He was used in blitzes on the edge and in interior gaps due to his speed and physicality. During his time there he established himself as a leader for his team and was a bright spot in their front seven.
(Example of his leadership and character)
Instincts, Speed and Size:
One of the most critical factors to look for when scouting a linebacker is their instincts and feel for the game. Through film study, Murray has shown he has good instincts but not the type that will set him clearly ahead of other early-round prospects. He understands reading guards and being patient to attack downhill in the correct gap. Sometimes he can seem a little hesitant when deciding, but in 3-3-5 defenses, linebackers are more susceptible to second-level blocks from linemen. So, initially, he needs to shed blocks before making the play.
His most intriguing trait is his great speed for a linebacker. Analysts are predicting he could run in the 4.4’s at the combine, and his game tape definitely shows he has sideline to sideline range. He can beat mobile quarterbacks and running backs to the edge then make the hard open-field tackle. Due to his size, Murray’s stoutness as a defender is one of his weak points. But the transition from an inside backer to the outside and NFL strength training will definitely help with this when he gets to the pros.
During his time at Oklahoma, Murray was asked to cover the hook part of the field in their primarily zone coverage defense. His coverage ability is good, but his awareness over the middle needs work. While at Oklahoma, he was asked to be the spy defender against mobile option quarterbacks. This responsibility has somewhat hindered his development as a coverage backer.
His ability to feel route concepts and flow instinctively was limited due to his spy responsibility. While studying his film you can see he sometimes sits down in zones instead of flowing with the quarterback’s eyes and doesn’t show a particularly innate feel for coverage. Considering this, coaching/scheme has a lot to do with this portion of the game, and if paired with Edmunds, who is known for his coverage awareness, he could learn and improve this trait.
With team captain and leader Lorenzo Alexander retiring, it’s critical that the Bills find a player to replace this missing piece. Kenneth Murray could be a good way to do this through the draft. His leadership and character are even more special than his game, so Murray can definitely fit in as a “process” guy for this group.
On top of that, his play speed and overall athletic ability would be a great asset to this already dominant Bills front seven. Overall, Murray could help this defense, and the Bills coaching staff could get the most out of a talented prospect like this.