Was drafting outside linebacker Larry English in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft a shrewd football move, or an unnecessary one? BoltHype's newest blogger Jeff Williams offers up his take..
On a team who’s best defensive player is an outside linebacker, the Chargers spent their first round pick on... an outside linebacker? Seems pretty stupid at first glance, doesn’t it? While I was hoping we would take a DE like Robert Ayers or an OT like Michael Oher, apparently AJ Smith had something else in mind. I am happy he went with a defensive player in the first round, and the sound of a more vicious pass-rush is music to my ears. I’m still a little worried about our ability to stop the run, but maybe 4th-rounder Vaughn Martin will surprise us.
From what we’re hearing from the Chargers’ brass, Larry English will be more than a backup to Shawne Merriman and Shaun Phillips. In college he played some defensive end, but he’s already being touted as part of a three-headed monster at linebacker, with Merriman and English rushing off the outside, and Phillips roaming the middle looking for a good angle from which to blitz. And honestly, I do like that sound of that. English was a stud in college, albeit against limited competition. But a stud is a stud - he has the size and the attitude to succeed on the defensive front seven.
The one concerning aspect of his drafting is that it is yet another sign that Merriman is not going to be a Charger for as long as we'd all like him to be. Much has been written about Merriman’s future contract demands, and the Chargers’ concerns about his ability to stay healthy. Add to the mix a capable replacement in English (if everything goes according to plan), and Merriman could be gone before you know it. I think we can safely assume that Lights Out will be a Charger through 2009. What about 2010, even with a franchise tag available? Why would AJ offer him a large 1-year deal, just to see him walk with little compensation in return? If English turns out to be a solid performer, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Merriman franchised in 2010 and his rights be traded to the highest bidder. And who else (besides AJ) wouldn’t offer up the world for a guy like Merriman? Obviously if a new bargaining agreement isn’t worked out before 2010, we have another year before we have to worry about it. But with a guy of Merriman’s caliber, I’m already starting to worry about it.
Maybe the trio of Merriman, Phillips, and English will be so dominant that AJ decides we have to keep the three of them together. Maybe the defense pulls together and wins us the ring we are so desperate for, allowing Merriman and AJ to become close buddies united around that common purpose. Maybe, Larry English was the key to unlocking the door to a championship...or maybe he's here to show Merriman the door. The clock is ticking on that Super Bowl dream.
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