After four seasons with the San Diego Chargers in which he only notched 8.5 sacks, outside linebacker Larry English would’ve normally been just fighting for a roster spot in 2013.
However, everything changed when second-year outside linebacker Melvin Ingram suffered a torn ACL on the second day of OTAs. This, coupled with the free agent departures of Shaun Phillips and Antwan Barnes, have left the team so thin at outside linebacker that English, whether deserving or not, will automatically be moved up the depth chart and see a key role as either a starter or key rotational player.
It’s still unknown how the Bolts will utilize their prized free agent acquisition Dwight Freeney. At 33-years-old, Freeney may not be an every-down player at this point in his career and may be best utilized as a third-down pass rusher and situational player. Meanwhile, Jarret Johnson will likely remain a key player on first and second down, but could be taken off the field on third downs as he provides little as a pass rusher.
This means that English could see plenty of chances on third down replacing Johnson and could even be on the field on first and second down in place of Freeney. By default, the Bolts could be counting on English to be an every-down player, despite him barely seeing the field the last three seasons.
Still, English will need to prove himself in training camp and preseason to warrant that type of playing time, and even that won’t necessarily translate to success. English had a solid preseason a year ago, but that didn’t equate to much playing time or production last season.
The key to English, like always, will be staying healthy, which is something he hasn’t been able to do in throughout his career and has undoubtedly affected his development as a player. English has talent, particularly as a pass rusher, and could be effective if given the opportunity. English was chosen in the middle of the first round in 2009 for a reason.
English knows that this is his best, and maybe last, opportunity to get his NFL career going. English is in the final year of his rookie contract, and a productive year will help his future and his wallet, whether he re-signs with the Bolts or signs with another team in 2014. The time is now or never for English to shed the draft bust label.