For Chargers’ Drue Tranquill, prosperity has been a slow process

He’s never been more obvious during his four seasons with the Chargers.

Shimmering in powder blue and gold, Chargers linebacker Drue Tranquill split Denver’s offensive line untouched Monday night, engulfing a helpless Russell Wilson.

The lightning bag ended the Broncos’ last chance at regulation and was the latest highlight for Tranquill in a season that has seen him attract attention like never before.

Sometimes off the field — in his most private moments — Tranquill admitted he felt more than a little blessed during his best and most productive NFL stretch.

“I just smile at my wife [Jackie] every morning,” he said. “I say, ‘I feel like this is a movie that I’m living.’ I really feel like I’m an unlikely candidate to be where I am today. i feel young I feel sparkling. I feel really good.”

Tranquill started five of the Chargers’ six games and has played every defensive snap in the past three weeks, which he’s only done once in his first three seasons.

He had 1½ sacks for his career before dropping Wilson twice in five Denver offensive snaps on Monday. Both stops came in third, resulting in a field goal and a punt — significant point-saving developments in a game the Chargers won in overtime 19-16.

“He communicates at a high level, plays with a lot of energy, is a factor in the run game, pass game, pass rush,” said coach Brandon Staley. “He’s having a really nice season.”

Tranquill and the Chargers are looking to extend their run Sunday when they play Seattle at SoFi Stadium and seek a fourth straight win, a streak not seen by this franchise since the end of the 2020 season.

Three games ago, the Chargers expanded Tranquill’s responsibilities and named him their signal caller in the huddle. The job was previously owned by security guard Derwin James Jr.

Passing the defensive calls is an important task in the NFL that has consequences among teammates and requires calm, consistency, and unwavering trust.

“You’re very proud of it,” Tranquill said. “I think as a special linebacker you want to command and call the huddle. Getting that opportunity meant the world.”

Just three years ago, as a rookie who switched from safety to linebacker while at Notre Dame, Tranquill earned most of his playing time on special teams.

He started three games on defense before returning to his sophomore year and earning a start in the Chargers’ season opener in Cincinnati. After just five snaps in that game, Tranquill suffered a fractured ankle that ended his season.

The setback was another major setback for a player who tore an anterior cruciate ligament in both knees early in his collegiate career within eight months.

Tranquill said the back-to-back injuries cast him in the role of underdog and created a future where he always felt the need to prove himself.

“After those crazy injuries, I always felt like I came back as a better version of myself,” he said. “I’m amazed every day that I can come and play football for a living, and do it at a high level.”

Tranquill reached new heights with his fourth-quarter performance against Wilson and the Broncos.

On his first sack, he lined up to Wilson’s left, easily shook a block, and ran the quarterback down the right of the formation, making the tackle outside the numbers.

The second came when Tranquill — based on a Wilson tendency the Chargers had identified — used perfect timing and shot across the line of scrimmage before the quarterback had even secured the shotgun snap.

James also flashed on the game, forcing Denver running back Mike Boone to make a choice on who to pick. Boone blocked James leaving Tranquill an unimpeded lane.

“It was one of those moments where it’s like, ‘Wow, that film degree and all that learning practically paid off with a resignation,'” Tranquill said. “Just seeing what came to fruition was pretty cool.”

This season, Tranquill is second to James in solo and total tackles. Khalil Mack is the only Charger with more quarterback hits than Tranquill. In the season opener against Las Vegas, Tranquill had his first interception of his career.

James called him the “heart and soul of the middle” right now. Defensive coordinator Renaldo Hill said Tranquill is showing increasing confidence in his second year at Staley’s defensive system. When asked what Tranquill has brought in 2022, Staley said, “Consistency of performance and production in that consistency.”

Still relatively new to linebacking, Tranquill described itself as an evolving project.

“Every week I think about how I can improve, how I can play more with the ball, how I can be more with the ball,” he said. “This year feels like my first year doing this as a full-time job. I have the feeling that my game can always be improved.”

Good but getting better and better, Tranquill tries to improve the movie script. For Chargers’ Drue Tranquill, prosperity has been a slow process

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