Dru Tranquill has ‘command’ of the Chargers’ defense

COSTA MESA (News4usonline) – The Los Angeles Chargers are hoping to go into their bye week with a four-game win streak. But first, they’ll have to beat the Seattle Seahawks. That’s really no small task considering Seattle is just coming off beating the Arizona Cardinals and has one of the hottest passers in the NFL.

Geno Smith, as part of his journeyman travels as an NFL quarterback, spent a season playing the backup role to an aging Philip Rivers. Smith’s one season was not impressive, and he eventually moved on. He moved on to Seattle where he spent several seasons as the backup to Russell Wilson.

Los Angeles Chargers linebacker Dru Tranquill (49) comes up with a big interception against the Los Angeles Raiders in Week 1 of the 2022 NFL season. Photo courtesy of the Los Angeles Chargers

Once Wilson and the Seahawks parted ways, Smith got locked in a quarterback duel before taking over as the starting quarterback and hasn’t looked back since. In just six games, Smith has already thrown for over 1,500 yards (1,502) and is completing his passes at a 73 percent clip.

Chargers defensive coordinator Renaldo Hill and his unit have taken notice of what the 32-year-old signal-caller has been doing this season. 

“He’s doing a great job of taking care of the ball,” Hill said. “Obviously, his completion percentage is up. He’s not turning the ball over. He’s using his legs when he needs to. He’s doing a great job of being QB1 over there. He’s playing at, probably, his highest level since I’ve been around him in the NFL. He’s doing a great job over there running that offense. I can see why they’re sitting in a good spot right now.”

Smith’s passing completion percentage is the highest he’s thrown the football since he has been in the league. With the way that he has played, Smith is showing he is the leader of a revived Seahawks team, a squad that appears to be gaining traction in its identity. With Wilson being traded to the Denver Broncos, head coach Pete Carroll and the Seahawks have had to re-imagine everything about the ballclub.

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith (7) on the sidelines in a preseason game against the Los Angeles Chargers at Dignity Health Sports Park in 2019. File Photo/News4usonline

That means moving away from their once-franchise quarterback and turning the keys of the car over to Smith. Hill said he has not seen too much of a difference or dropoff from what Seattle did with Wilson and now with Smith. 

“Not a ton. You see some similarities, as far as when the pocket does break down, he’s able to move,” Hill remarked. “What you like from Geno [Smith] is that he is sitting in the pocket, he knows where his targets are at and he’s making good decisions with the football. Then, you tie that in with the run game. They hit some big, explosive runs, when you look at the cutup. They’re a big, home-run hitting team, and they can do it in the pass, as well as in the run game.”

That should not be too much of a problem for Hill’s defense to handle. After all, the Chargers are coming off a rugged 19-16 win against the Denver Broncos during a Monday Night Football game.

The defense of the Chargers kept Wilson in check for most of the night, holding the former Seahawks star to just 188 passing yards. The Chargers, paced by Dru Tanquill (two sacks) officially dumped Wilson four times for a minus 28 yards. Tranquill finished the night with eight tackles.

“I really feel like we’re starting to play more team defense,” Tranquill said after the game. “Guys are starting to play together. You know, we had some injuries. You see [Joey] Bosa go down. So, we’re trying to find our way. Guys are trying to find their roles. I think you’re seeing us improve week to week.”

It seems like each game he plays, Tranquill is somewhere around the football making plays. Hill talked about the ability of Tranquill to spread his wings around the whole defense. 

“We ask a lot of those linebackers,” says Hill. “Playing in a 3-4 system, they have to be able to two-gap and get separation off of blocks, and he’s (Tranquill) doing that like second nature. He’s not staying attached to the blockers, he’s getting off. Obviously, he can use his speed.

“On a play last week versus Denver, he was on the opposite side and ran [Broncos QB] Russell [Wilson] down. Those are the kinds of things that he and K9 [Murray Jr.] can bring at that linebacker depth. They have speed to erase plays when things break down,” Hill added.

Los Angeles Chargers linebacker Dru Tranquill (49) is in action against the Jacksonville Jaguars in an NFL game played at SoFi Stadium on Sept.25, 2022. Photo by Melinda Meijer, courtesy of the Compton Bulletin

Tranquill has been playing out of his mind this season. Through the team’s first six games, the fourth-year linebacker has registered 33 solo tackles and 50 takedowns altogether. At the pace he’s going, Tranquill could have well over 150 tackles before the season is over.

As far as what he likes seeing from Tranquill this season, Hill says it’s “his command” of the team’s defensive schemes.

“It’s his second year in the system, so he’s confident,” said Hill. “ He’s asking all of the right questions. He wants to know those questions so that he can solve the problems on the field. That’s what we’re seeing. I wish that I had some wood here [laughter], but both of those guys [Tranquill and LB Kenneth Murray Jr.] have been healthy, and that’s been a huge key. Having those guys, there’s not a lot of substitution, different guys in the lineup, and I think that is giving those guys confidence. They’re seeing all of the looks, and the more and more that you see looks, the better you play.”

Featured Image Caption: Los Angeles Chargers linebacker Dru Tranquill (49) making a play against a Jacksonville Jaguars ballcarrier during an NFL game played at SoFi Stadium on Sept. 25, 2022. Photo by Melinda Meijer, courtesy of the Compton Bulletin