Merriman ready to take San Diego by storm

Shawne Merriman is the third defensive player the San Diego Chargers have taken in the past four years, taken with the 12th overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft.

"I don't believe I have ever coached a player as quick and determined as Merriman," Maryland head coach Ralph Freidgen said. "He has a great work ethic and he should become a very solid player in the NFL."

Shawne Merriman, the Chargers first selection in the 2005 NFL Draft, taken 12th overall, was the top defender on many teams draft boards. To have him fall into the Chargers lap was a blessing they could not pass up.

"This guy is a guy we've been looking at for months and hoping he'd be there and really didn't expect to be," Assistant General Manager Buddy Nix confirmed.

They went into the day not believing they had a chance at Merriman with the 12th pick, especially with Dallas choosing ahead of them. They had planned on picking wide receiver Mark Clayton. When the Cowboys picked Demarcus Ware, the choice was easy.

"If you all like Steve Foley, I think you're going to love this guy," General Manager A.J. Smith said. "Tough, physical, nasty, fast, brings a great presence to our defense. We're all very, very excited and can't wait for him to get here and help us win."

Shawne Merriman admitted that the whole process was confusing, saying the Vikings, Cowboys and Chargers were the three teams who expressed interest in the last three weeks leading up to the draft.

Nicknamed Light Out after knocking out several opposing players during a high school game, Merriman brings an added dimension to the defense that was sorely lacking. He has the ability to pressure the quarterback and will likely be tabbed to play outside linebacker opposite Steve Foley.

Word is Merriman will drop five to ten pounds to be able to play outside linebacker effectively in the Chargers scheme.

The former Terp saw extensive action at defensive end during his last season in College Park, but he has also seen action as an outside linebacker in previous seasons.

"We've been looking to try to find a way to get additional pressure out of our defense on the quarterback," Head Coach Marty Schottenheimer said. "Our pass defense a year ago was not ranked anywhere where it needs to be to be a championship football team. People always look back at the back end of this thing and say it's the secondary. But I think all of us in here realize that is has a lot to do with the ability to put pressure on the quarterback.

"What we have is a terrific athlete, an extremely competitive young man that we'll put in a location where he can get after the quarterback. He has played both linebacker as well as with his hand on the ground rushing the quarterback. That versatility was one of the factors that was a part of our decision to select him."

Despite the Terrapins' disappointing season, Merriman was an All-ACC defensive lineman in 2004, collecting 8 1/2 sacks, 10 quarterback hurries and 85 tackles. Merriman finished his career in Maryland with 23 quarterback sacks, one off the team record set by Mike Corvino.

In the Chargers defense, Merriman will play a pivotal role. Based on the words of the coach, their new acquisition will be on the field a lot as a rookie. Given his abilities, he may end up pushing Ben Leber to the bench and to the inside, backing up Randall Godfrey.

Merriman doesn't care how he is used, as long as he is on the field.

"I hope I'm used in the system as much as I can," he said. "Hopefully I'll get a chance to run around and make plays and come off the edge also. Whatever best molds me for the defense I can do."

Merriman decided against working out at the combines, only doing the bench press where he put up 25 reps of 225 pounds.

At his Pro Day, however, Merriman ran a pair of forties at 4.66 and 4.69, showed amazing agility by running a 4.24 short shuttle and had a 40-inch vertical jump.

"I am definitely real fast and real nasty," said when asked about the comments Smith had made about him minutes before. "To have that thunderbolt on the side of my head makes me very proud."

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