The two pass rushing outside linebackers will forever be linked; In 2005, the Dallas Cowboys' selected Ware with the 11th overall pick. Shawne Merriman came off the board at number 12 to the San Diego Chargers. While both players have made the Pro Bowl, its so far been Merriman who has enjoyed most of the accolades. But just how much of Shawne Merriman's success is owed to a coach (Wade Phillips) who put him in position to be successful? I guess the results speak for themselves. Entering the 2007 season, DeMarcus Ware was more than excited about playing under Wade Phillips:
"I talked to Shawne at the Pro Bowl, and he said, 'You're going to love this system. You're going to move all around, from left to right and into the middle. It will open up the gate for you and other players. We have a lot of great players on our defense, just like San Diego does, and we have been watching a lot of film of those guys. We're excited about the sack totals and big plays we can put up in this system. … Sacks are how we eat. Everybody is really excited that a new coach has come in and has a new philosophy different from our old coach. The philosophy Wade has is a little more aggressive than the one Bill Parcells had. It's what guys on this team like. They like the movement, the aggressiveness of this scheme. They don't have as many responsibilities."
Through nine games under Wade Phillips, DeMarcus Ware has racked up the stats:
52 tackles, 8 sacks, 2 passes defended, 1 forced fumble
Meanwhile Shawne Merriman, while playing under new coaches Ted Cottrell and Ron Rivera, has managed:
44 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 3 passes defended, 1 forced fumble
What we can gather from glancing at the numbers and watching Merriman play within the new Chargers scheme, is that Merriman isn't rushing the passer with the same frequency as last year. Merriman is being asked to drop back in coverage a little more, and teams are not running to his side as much. However, Merriman is involved more in tackling the ball carrier and is still making plays (even if they are not necessarily behind the line of scrimmage).
Ultimately its a question of philosophy. Shawne Merriman is a great football player and can do anything a linebacker is asked to do. There certainly is an argument to be made that Merriman should rush the passer as much as possible and that the defense should be schemed in a way that maximizes his ability to make plays in the backfield.
But regardless, its pretty obvious that losing Wade Phillips has had a negative effect on Merriman as a pass rusher, and a positive effect on DeMarcus Ware as a pass rusher. Take that for what you will.
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