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News » Chargers take English with 16th pick

Chargers take English with 16th pick

Chargers take English with 16th pick
SAN DIEGO (AP) - A.J. Smith certainly raised some eyebrows by taking Northern Illinois linebacker Larry English in the first round of the NFL draft.

Whether English turns out to be the eventual replacement for star outside linebacker Shawne "Lights Out" Merriman remains to be seen. The Chargers said they were simply looking to add depth on a defense that lost a lot of its spark after Merriman had season-ending surgery after the season opener.

English was projected by many to be taken lower in the first round, and the Chargers picked him even though players such as USC linebacker Rey Maualuga and Ohio State running back Chris "Beanie" Wells were available.

"Unless we shore up the defense, we're not going to go where we want to go," Smith said. "We need to bring pressure and this is a guy that can bring the heat - physical, nasty, great presence. We're going to put him in the mix, give him to coach Rivera and turn him loose."

Smith, who was referring to defensive coordinator Ron Rivera, didn't take questions about English.

Merriman's contract expires after the 2009 season and there's already been talk that he'll get big free-agent money elsewhere, perhaps from the Washington Redskins because he's from Maryland.

Jimmy Ray, the Chargers' director of player personnel, said there have been situations where Merriman and the other outside linebacker, Shaun Phillips, have been hurt. He said it can only help having depth that includes someone such as English, who had 31 1/2 sacks in college.

"I think it's a great situation to come into because those are two talented football players, veterans guys that have been around the game a long time," English said during a conference call. "I can learn a lot from those guys. I'm excited to get in there and compete and be a football player."

Turner said he envisions situations where the Chargers have three outside linebackers on the field at the same time, with Merriman coming off one edge, English off the other edge and Phillips moving around.

"We can create some real problems for offensive football teams," Turner said. "We've had four outside linebackers on the field at once. I don't want to get ahead of ourselves. Larry has to come in here and crank it up and learn what this league's like. He's going to come in here and have the same learning curve all young guys do."

The Chargers had a hard time getting to quarterbacks last year, and were ranked second-to-last in pass defense.

Jyles Tucker, who was given a $14.65 million, five-year contract extension days before the 2008 season started despite playing in only six career regular-season games, replaced Merriman and have 5 1/2 sacks. Phillips led the Chargers with 7 1/2.

"We felt a real urgency to create situations where we can put more pressure on the quarterback, and obviously getting Shawne Merriman back will help us greatly there," Turner said. "Adding a rusher, we felt, would certainly help us. I don't care who you are, you can only cover so long. If you can't pressure the quarterback in this league, you're going to struggle."

Turner said he's not going to get caught up in whether a first-round draft pick needs to be a starter.

"If he comes in here and plays 500, 600 snaps in our nickel package, and can be productive, that would be a great plus for us."

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: April 26, 2009

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