Eric Murray: A mystery at safety for the Chiefs

KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 30: Wide receiver Cody Latimer
KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 30: Wide receiver Cody Latimer /

How valuable is Eric Murray in the years to come? It’s a key question for the Chiefs defense moving forward in 2018.

Not having Eric Berry last year was a tough loss for the Kansas City Chiefs. The leader on the defensive side and the heart of the team, Berry is essential. However, an injury is an injury, which allowed younger players on the depth chart to get their chance at playing time.

Eric Murray is a 5’11”, 199 pound strong safety from the University of Minnesota. In college, he was a Third Team All-Big Ten selection after recording 69 tackles, 7 pass breakups and a pick his senior season. While he did not put up gaudy numbers, Murray was solid playing corner on the outside and was not afraid to get physical.

He was drafted by the Chiefs in the 4th round in 2016, and has contributed well on special teams. His physicality is the reason why the Chiefs selected him in 2016, and his size and the Chiefs’ need for safety depth made him switch from his comfort zone at corner.

Due to the loss of Eric Berry this year, Murray was asked to do much more than just special teams. The starting safety spots were occupied by Ron Parker and Daniel Sorensen, but Murray earned plenty of playing time with a strong training camp. He was a great depth option for the Chiefs when they needed a cork in the defense.

Now that Ron Parker has been released this offseason, there is a hole to fill in the safety depth chart. Ron Parker has been the starter in Kansas City since 2014, and a good one at that. The tandem of Berry and Parker was the absolute backbone of a solid Chiefs secondary for 4 years. Now that it’s broken up, it’s time for a new duo.

Eric Murray is young, yet he has an extremely high ceiling. Learning from Eric Berry and Ron Parker would have enabled him to unlock his toughness and use his football mind to his advantage. Mirroring Berry’s toughness and grit along with Parker’s subtleness and ability to read the eyes of the quarterback will go a long way in this league.

Murray can develop into a great player. Let’s dive in and analyze his strengths and weaknesses.

Strength: Determination

One thing that first jumped out at me when watching film of Eric Murray is his determination. He does not give up on a play until the whistle is blown, and that’s what the coaches love about him.

In week 2 against the Eagles, on a throw that should’ve resulted in an interception by Terrance Mitchell, it looked as if tight end Zach Ertz was going to score. Instead, Murray chased him down and made the tackle before he could reach the end zone.

We could go off of that play and talk about how Terrance Mitchell should’ve had the interception, but that’s besides the point.

Eric Murray quite possibly saved the game for the Chiefs with that tackle. The Eagles were forced to try a field goal to end the half, and in the end the Chiefs won the game by a touchdown. It’s those plays that make your coaches happy, and the outcome of Murray’s tackle for sure paid off. Not to mention on the last play of the game, Eric Murray was the one who tipped Carson Wentz’s hail mary attempt, causing an incompletion.

Looking ahead, making plays like that on the Chiefs, a playoff caliber team, could be the difference between a win and a loss. Eric Murray will make those kinds of plays when you need them.

Weakness: Penalties

Bad footwork and getting handsy in the NFL can always lead to the ref throwing that yellow cloth. No player is immune to getting penalties in the league, but there is a way to prevent them.

Murray was subject to 6 penalties for a total of 37 yards. While this may not seem like very many, it is a number that is pretty high for a safety that only played 438 defensive snaps.

In comparison, Ron Parker played 93% of the snaps (1,032) on defense and only drew 2 total penalties for 16 yards. An established veteran is much different than a second year player, but to stick in the NFL you have to correct your mistakes.

The biggest issue for Murray is that his physicality and toughness gets in the way of making the right play. He has quick feet and the ability to jump in front of his man, but instead uses his hands which can lead to a penalty. Of course, an in-game situation is different and can make it difficult to stay poised.

In Week 7 against the Raiders at the end of the game, Murray was covering tight end Jared Cook. On a 3rd and 10 play from the Chiefs’ 29 yard-line, Derek Carr threw the ball Cook’s direction.  Murray played the ball late, and instead of using his hands and turning to the ball, he allowed a huge completion. This play gave the Raiders a 1st and Goal, and a chance to win the game.

A few plays later, the game clock read 0:00 due to a couple of penalties from both teams. Murray was covering wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, and on 1st and Goal with no time left, Carr threw the ball Murray’s way. But again, instead of turning and playing the ball, he used his hands which drew a costly penalty.

It is a quality that will come with experience. Every young player has flaws and will draw the occasional penalties. Murray has the ability to defend the slot, and roam the middle of the field in zone coverage. It is just the little tweaks that he needs to make that will vault him over the top.

Strength: Quickness

The quality that makes up for his smaller size, Murray has the quickness of a slot wide receiver. Much of his success in college came due to how quickly he could close to the ball, and light up the defender.

Exhibit A:

Murray’s quickness will help him tremendously in the long-run. This past season, he had been very late playing the ball on several different plays. When he learns to use his instincts and read the quarterback’s eyes, he will be able to adjust and use his quickness to his advantage.

On special teams and on defense this past season, Murray got to show off how using his quickness would prove his worth on the team. In an article by BJ Kissel in June of 2017, coaches Al Harris and Dave Toub are quoted as praising Murray being consistent every down. Consistency on special teams is Dave Toub’s philosophy, and Eric Murray was able to use his quickness to elevate his play.

Eric Murray will only continue to get better, and his quickness is one of his most valuable assets.


Overall, Eric Murray is simply a young player that needs some time to develop. Coming into the league as a cornerback and switching to a different position is no easy task. But so far in his young career, Murray has played extremely well—contributing tremendously for Dave Toub in special teams, and holding his own on the defensive side.

There is always the young guy that every veteran quarterback loves to pick on, and at times Murray was that guy. However, using his toughness, determination and quickness, he will learn to adapt to his position and make the right play.

From his rookie season, to his second year and getting more playing time, he has shown drastic improvement. In coverage, Murray has plenty of work to do getting his feet right and learning to read a receiver’s route. When talking about raw talent, however, Murray has plenty.

The Chiefs need Murray to step up in the coming years. After cutting Ron Parker, it is time for the next man up to show his stuff. The coaching staff believes in him, and the fans should too.

It’s time for Eric Murray to take over.