The first big hit of the Chiefs’ 2016 training camp was delivered by rookie safety Eric Murray, who flattened receiver Rod Streater on a drag route one week ago.
Thing is, Murray was only trying to knock the ball out.
“I wasn’t trying to kill him or anything,” Murray said.
Still, it was a moment in which Murray demonstrated the talent that prompted the Chiefs to select him in the fourth round out of Minnesota.
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According to Chiefs scout Terry Delp, the 5-foot-11, 199-pounder was regarded as the toughest player on his college team — an usual title for a defensive back, to be sure — and a reason why the Chiefs believe Murray can make the transition from cornerback to safety, a position he’s never played before.
“Yeah, I’ll bang a little bit, I’ll get up in there,” Murray said. “I feel like when you tackle people, that gets me more into the game, mentally.”
But while the Chiefs’ like Murray’s toughness and willingness to tackle, they also like his athleticism — he ran a 4.49 40-yard dash and posted a 39 1/2 -inch vertical — and coverage ability, which could make him a real weapon at safety, provided he takes to it.
“Obviously, if he can make that conversion, then you kind of have what you want — a safety who is a cover guy, which is really valuable in multiple wideout sets,” said defensive coordinator Bob Sutton.
“We’ve got a lot of really good tight ends in our league and so to get a guy that can cover, that is a natural cover guy and does the other thing — he’s tough, no question about that, and highly competitive — (is good).”
Murray has earned a few first-string reps at safety next to Ron Parker over the last week, but those came when Daniel Sorensen was hurt. For the most part, he’s been playing behind Parker, Sorensen and veteran Stevie Brown on the second team as he trains his eyes and learns a new position.
“The transition is a little rough around the edges, but I’m getting used to it,” Murray said. “I’ve got to understand there’s a learning curve I’ve got to conquer before I can be good at the position.
“It’s a lot different, because sometimes when you’re lining up, there’s not a person in front of you where you know like, ‘Okay, I have to guard him.’ It’s more of a cerebral position.”
While Murray added that he’s cool with the change, even though it’s a bit slower than corner, Sutton is optimistic Murray will continue to take to it.
“The transition inside, you have a lot more things happening and they happen both ways,” Sutton said. “You have runs, you have passes, you have runs that are passes that are crossing formation quickly.
“So there are a lot of things you have to have good eyes and instincts for, and that’s the big challenge for Eric — to get enough reps in there and for us to see if we think we’re right and this guy can play.”