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A Ball Watchers Guide to: Shawne Merriman

Discussion in 'Latest Chargers News & Headlines' started by robdog, Jul 16, 2009.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

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    By Curtis Egan
    <em>BoltTalk Staff Writer</em>

    <strong>The Draft:</strong>

    <div class="alignright"><a href="http://z.about.com/d/football/1/0/y/S/ShawneMerriman6a.jpg"><img title="Shawne Merriman" src="http://z.about.com/d/football/1/0/y/S/ShawneMerriman6a.jpg" alt="Shawne Merriman" width="192" height="239" /></a></div>

    It was 2005, and the Chargers had the 12th pick of the NFL draft, a pick the obtained from fleecing the new York Giants in a trade for Quarterback Philip Rivers. The televisions were all on and everyone waited for the Chargers to make their choice, and an excellent choice it was.

    "<em>With the twelfth pick of the 2005 NFL Draft, the San Diego Chargers pick-..</em>" Then NFL Commissioner, Paul Tagliabue said into the microphone as he received the card for the Chargers war room, "<em>Shawne Merriman- Linebacker from the University of Maryland-.</em>" There was rejoicing in Boltsville for this young man had the rare combination of strength, size, athleticism and attitude to be one of the greats. He had potential and the probability of being able to make the jump from College great to NFL star.

    The unique thing was that Philip Rivers, who's trade gave the Chargers the pick to take Merriman, had a history with Merriman. Shawne and Philip played against one another in college, and they were competitive to say the least. There is a well know photo of the two face to face during a game. Now the two were going to be team mates.

    <strong>Road to being a Charger</strong>
    Merriman's road to being a Charger started out a bit rocky, he was a hold out for 10 days into training camp. But that is not what had some Charger fans scratching their heads. The Chargers and Merriman's agent could not come to terms on offseason work outs. As a result, Merriman missed them all. There were attempts at compromise; I am not besmirching either side. At one point Merriman's agent reportedly told the Chargers that Merriman could attend the meetings, but no participate in the on field activities. This prompted the famous "<em>There is no such thing as a half-Charger here,</em>" comment from Chargers General Manager A.J. Smith. Smith continued his comment ending it in "<em>Either you're a Charger or you're not.</em>" Understandably the Charger fans were concerned and upset. Merriman missed the Chargers rookie orientation earlier that year as well. To be fair, the NFLPA agreed with Merriman and his agent, citing that if Merriman were to be injured, the Chargers would not have to pay Merriman any money. Of course that does little to appease the news hungry fans who want to hear how good the first round star really is- We had to wait to find that out.

    As the season started Head Coach Marty Schottenheimer did not name Merriman a starter. It was not until the 7th week of the season when Merriman took the starting role and refused to relinquish it. His first four games saw Merriman get pressure on the opposing signal callers as he tallied 6 sacks.

    In week 15 the Chargers rolled into Indianapolis to take on an undefeated Colts team, Peyton Manning, the Colts Quarterback was dissecting opposing defenses with the skill and air of a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon. However, he had not yet faced the Chargers defense with their new leader. Merriman had his best game of his early career as the Chargers went on to hand the Colts their first loss, spoiling their quest for the perfect season. Merriman kept Peyton on the move, sacking him twice, once for six yards on a 4th and goal play.

    2005, off to a rocky start but a Margarita finish, or should that be Pina Colada finish? Merriman got a lot of media notoriety for his aggressive play and disruptive effect on opposing offenses. He buried the thought of the offseason workouts and slight hold outs beneath the avalanche of 10 sacks, 43 solo tackles, 14 assisted tackles, 4 defended passes and 2 forced fumbles. Merriman, in his first season as a Charger was on his way to Hawaii to participate in the Pro Bowl, but also earner the Defensive Rookie of the Year award from the Associated Press. He gave Charger fans a lot to be proud of and a lot to look forward to.

    <strong>2006</strong>
    2006 proved to be another sweet year with a rocky patch. In late October, information surfaced that indicated that Merriman would face a 4 game suspension for violating the NFL's steroid policy. Merriman reported that the substance came from a tainted supplement, but the damage was done. The Charger fan forums were ablaze with cries for Merriman's head. Fans were frustrated and began to question the character of this young man. Some called for restraint, and said that Merriman would have to prove himself. In my opinion that is what he did. He apologized to the organization, the fans and the NFL. He explained his side of the story. I for one posted that he can have a pass, one time. If it happened in the future then we would know the truth about supplements. So far, he has never repeated the problem as far as I know. The new NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell even publicly stated that Merriman had tested clean on 19 of 20 random tests.

    Upon regaining the field, Merriman exploded. He missed the first 4 games of the season, but his final 12 were ones to be seen. In his first two games he sent a message to Charger fans, opposing offenses and the media loud and clear, <strong>LIGHTS OUT IS BACK</strong>! He did this with actions, recording 3 sacks and an interception. Merriman went on to lead the league in sacks that season, even though he missed 4 games, he registered 17 sacks, 49 solo tackles, 14 assisted tackles, 8 defended passes, 4 forced fumbles and his interception. Those were stunning numbers for any defender to say the least.

    However not everyone was riding the Lights Out band wagon. Well everyone is Boltsville was, but Merriman faced some very vocal criticism from fellow defensive star Jason Taylor. Now my thinking was that Taylor was actually worried that he would lose the Defensive Player of the Year award to someone who only played 12 games. In my opinion that was the motivating factor for the public campaign that Taylor took up against Merriman, saying that he was suspended for steroids, so he should get no awards and not be awarded a trip to the Pro Bowl. By all reports Merriman handled the criticism well, sending Taylor a Lights out T-shirt. But Merriman was awarded his second trip to the Pro Bowl, and there the two were able to discuss their opinions. Only those two men can tell you if it resolved anything, but it seems the NFL listened to the comments made by Taylor.

    <strong>The Merriman Rule</strong>
    The 2006 season led to a change in the NFL's policies. They passed a rule stating that any player who tests positive for steroids shall be forbidden from winning and performance awards or being selected to the Pro Bowl in the year that they tested positive. Again, though this is commonly known as the Merriman Rule, it should be pointed out again, that there were 19 clean tests out of 20 to support Merriman's claims of a tainted supplement.

    <strong>No more dancing</strong>
    Sometimes the NFL can stand for the No Fun League. Such was the case in 2007 when Merriman said that he would no longer due his celebration ‘lights out dance' because of negative comments. Luckily it did not stop him from playing to the levels that we Charger fans became accustomed to. Alas, when the Chargers player the Chiefs, Merriman brought the dance back by popular demand. Team mates and fans alike called for its return and it came back as Damon Huard was dusting himself off after receiving a sack compliments of Lights Out!

    Merriman finished the season with 68 total tackles, with 54 solo and 14 assisted tackles. Now something can be pointed out here, but in each of Merriman's first 3 seasons, he had exactly 14 assisted tackles- Weird huh? Totally! However his sack production suffered some as opposing offenses shifted more focus on stopping him. He still managed a respectable 12.5 sacks in the season though. 2007 also saw Merriman voted to his third consecutive Pro Bowl.

    <strong>2008</strong>
    Oh man but did this season hurt. Sporting my new Merriman 56 jersey I get the news that he is out for the season due to a knee injury. Further that it was one suffered at the end of 2007. Oh man- It was a rough year for the defense all around, so lets just skip past this to what we can expect in 2009, shall we? Yes, let do!

    <strong>What to expect</strong>
    So here we are, current day. We have seen reports that Defensive Coordinator Ron Rivera's game plan is going to be more aggressive, and that should fit right in with Merriman, because in the past, when faced with returning to the game or answering critics he has done it with a vengeance, proving himself thought his play. Well Rivera's game plan should help with that, if it is as aggressive as we are led to believe.

    Merriman also feels he has something to prove. Recently it was reported that he saw a list of the league's top linebacker. He was number 12. Now granted he had been out a year, and sometimes out of sight is out of mind, right? Well I am not sure Merriman felt that way; "<em>I was pissed off,</em>" Merriman recently told Yahoo! Sports. "<em>I'm sitting there like, ‘Hold on, there are 11 guys in the league better than me? When did this happen?' I know I didn't play for a year, but I didn't know I had that much of a drop-off.</em>

    Now Merriman is entering the last year of his contract, and so he not only has something to prove to Boltsville but to 31 other teams in the NFL. "<em>People haven't seen the best of me, not at all. In the past, I would tell someone, ‘I'm about to go out and just kill it this year.' Now, I want people to just watch. I had enough doubters around before, and some people felt like I was just talking [trash] or just talking too much. My thing is, now I'm just talking about what I've done and what I'm doing right now, not about what I'm going to do.</em>"

    Granted, Merriman did just have his lateral collateral and posterior cruciate ligaments repaired in his left knee. A decade ago it would have possibly ended his career. Luckily for us and Merriman he lives in a time were medical science can and is doing more. So the Chargers seem to be willing to wait and see how Merriman plays, Merriman is by all appearances willing to let the LEAGUE see how he plays.

    For now, Rivera isn't all too worried about Merriman's ranking in the top linebackers listing; "<em>It is up to us to pick up the slack,</em>" he said. "<em>I thought our last four regular-season games and then the [playoff] win against Indianapolis kind of showed that if we can play a high-caliber style of defense, <span style="text-decoration: underline;">we have an opportunity to be a team that has to be reckoned with.</span> That's one of the things that we talked about when we first got together for our first minicamp – that we've got to live up to our end of the bargain now.</em>"

    If Merriman lives up to form we Charger fans will be able to sit back and watch the Quarterbacks get rattles, flushed out of the pocket, then get dropped. Then we will get to see the Lights Out dance, over and over. One thing I have come to know for certain is when faced with a Challenge, Merriman does not back down, he accelerates!

    That is one thing that a fellow NFL player Chad ‘Ochocinco' Johnson may find out. One of the latest crazes as anyone who watches the NFL Network's Total Access will know from the constant droning on about it, is Twitter. It is a public message board for very short messages, where people can post shout outs and chat back and forth. Well a lot of football players are on Twitter, and it seems that Ochocino (or Ochostinko as I call him) has been out of the media's spot light too long and decided to start smack talking Merriman on Twitter. I don't get it. He is challenging a man who has something to prove and rises to any challenge. Chad, I feel for you when Merriman gets the Bengals on the field this December. It may be a true Lights Out for the Twitterpated Ochostinko.

    Now lest you think that I have fully abandoned my ball watching ways, there are some things I would like to see him do better.

    <strong>Drop back into coverage:</strong>
    Now this may not be fair, you have someone who can bull rush and offensive lineman, collapse the pocket and make the QB wet themselves while running for their lives, you rush him. But every now and again I would like to see Merriman terrify a Tight End or Receiver (especially Ochostinko). I think a varied coverage package could throw a few kinks in the game and make the defense truly unpredictable.

    <strong>Autograph my Jersey:</strong>
    OK, so it is not something he can do better, because he hasn't done it before, but hey I can hope can't I?

    <strong>Stay a Charger:</strong>
    A man has to go where he feels wanted. The Chargers have not been in a rush to get talks going about a contract, which puzzles me heading into a possible capless year, but I cant help but to want to see Merriman remain a Charger for years to come... maybe I should add ‘Fanboy' to my plethora of titles-

    One thing is sure; Merriman will help the Chargers defense improve over a 2008 season that saw the whole unit struggle. If he returns in the same manner he has before, we will be happy!

    <strong>Ball Watcher <em>noun</em></strong> (as defined by Shamrock)
    1. Those fans that stare down the QB at the snap of the ball (whether watching on TV or at the stadium). They don't see the coverage, the DL/LB alignment, the offensive formation, or other nuances of the game.

    2. After the snap, those same fans simply follow the ball. Pulls, traps, OL slides, secondary coverage's, etc, all are foreign concepts to them.

    3. Advanced ball watchers become stat reading ball watchers. The "dirty" work, done by players in the trenches, or run support CB's, escape those fans knowledge of the game.

    4. Only skill position players (i.e. those that generate stats) are important to ball watchers.

    5. Concudan

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