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Chargers bolster pass rush

Posted Apr 25, 2009

The Chargers used their first-round pick in Saturday’s NFL Draft on Northern Illinois linebacker Larry English, who had 31.5 sacks is college.

Chargers General Manager A.J. Smith went into this weekend hoping give a boost to a pass defense that finished 31st in the NFL in 2008, and he believes Northern Illinois outside linebacker Larry English (6-2, 255) can do just that.

“We need to bring pressure,” Smith said.  “This is a guy that can bring the heat.  (He’s) physical, nasty, great presence.  We’re going to give him to Coach (Ron) Rivera and turn him loose.”

English, whom the Chargers selected with the 16th overall pick Saturday, recorded a school-record 31.5 sacks and 63 tackles for loss while at Northern Illinois.  He joins an already talented linebacker group that includes Shawne Merriman and Shaun Phillips, but Head Coach Norv Turner believes you can never have enough pass rushers, particularly with the way opponents have attacked the Chargers in recent years.

“We’ve had the most passes thrown against us of any team in the last five years,” Turner said.  “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. Obviously getting Shawne Merriman back will help us greatly there, but adding a rusher we thought would certainly help us.”

With 20 of 22 starters from last year’s team set to return, the Chargers were in position to draft a player who could come in and fill a role while they grow.  That’s what they believe they found in English.

“If a guy comes in and is an outstanding pass rusher, you can get his hand in the ground or let him rush the quarterback from a two-point stance,” Turner said. “If he comes in here and plays 500 or 600 snaps in our nickel packages and can be productive, that would be a great plus for us.”

Turner said he and his defensive staff will likely find ways to get Merriman, Phillips and English on the field at the same time, citing previous situations in which the Chargers played four outside linebackers at once.  English also provides value in the kicking game.

“The fact that Larry plays linebacker, it’s going to help us on special teams,” Turner said.  “He’s a guy that will probably be on three or four special teams.  He’ll be a guy that you’d be able to get ready to play in your nickel packages.”

In addition to his on-field prowess, English was a two-time recipient of the Vern Smith Leadership Award recipient given to the Mid-American Conference's top player.  The Chargers believe they’re getting a high-character player who will be an asset in the locker room.

“The guy has no flags on him; no trouble,” Chargers Director of Player Personnel Jimmy Raye said.  “He’s a character guy, which we look for in all of our players.  A.J. stresses that through and through, ‘Make sure the guy doesn’t have any off-field issues.’  The guy is perfectly clean."

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