The San Diego Chargers chose former Maryland Terrapins linebacker Shawne Merriman with the 12th pick in round one of the 2005 NFL Draft. Merriman was a Pro Bowl and All-Pro linebacker in his first three seasons which included a 2006 season in which he did not play in four games but led the NFL with 17 sacks.
Merriman had knee surgery in 2008 and missed 15 regular season games as well as both playoff games. He started 14 games in 2009, but he was not the same player and was placed on waivers in 2010. Merriman was claimed by the Buffalo Bills and played there from 2010-2012 before announcing his retirement.
San Diego chose Larry English with the 16th pick in round one of the 2009 NFL Draft. English was converted from defensive end to outside linebacker, but injuries have limited him throughout his career and he has yet to show that he can replace Merriman as a pass rusher.
It appeared as though Antwan Barnes could be Merriman’s replacement as a pass rusher when he ranked 11th in the NFL with 11 sacks two years ago, but Barnes had just three sacks last season.
San Diego chose former South Carolina Gamecocks DE Melvin Ingram in round one of last year’s draft and converted him to OLB. Ingram had one sack in 16 games which included one start last season.
The Lighting Bolts run a 3-4 defense which consists of three down linemen and four linebackers, so they need one of their outside linebackers to put pressure on quarterbacks.
San Diego lost OLB Shaun Phillips in free agency this year, and he ranked first or second on San Diego’s roster in sacks eight times in nine seasons. Veteran OLB Jarret Johnson is not a pass rusher, so Ingram will have to step up this season for the Chargers to make up for Johnson.
Merriman had three great seasons with San Diego, and replacing him has been a challenge for the front office. Ingram will be the next man up to get an opportunity to replace Merriman.