Merri-man brings smiles to Chargers defense

The Chargers secondary is smiling right now. With three and five step drops common in the NFL, the ball leaves the quarterback's hands much quicker than before. Enter a difference maker, Shawne Merriman.

Forget the island the secondary now has a continent. Take a gander at the speed coming off the edges these days. Steve Foley mans one side and newcomer Shawne Merriman will bring his game to the other side.

The early word is Merriman will see time at both end and linebacker and his itinerary is simple enough.

Meet Foley at one quarterback place.

That is something that is very familiar to Merriman. He has been busting up plays in the backfield for years as a Terp and he figures the transition should go smoothly.

"It was a 4-3 (defense) at Maryland with me standing up at a defensive end spot," said Merriman. "I basically did everything an outside linebacker does but it was from a defensive end position."

He has dropped back in coverage during his college days, amassing two pass breakups last year but everyone knows the truth to his game.

With 17 tackles for a loss, three forced fumbles, eight quarterback sacks and ten quarterback hurries on his resume as a junior, the Chargers expect him to pass by offensive linemen as if they were standing still.

"He is an outstanding athlete and a guy who has shown great energy for this game," head coach Marty Schottenheimer said. "That's the one thing that stood out to all of us. He plays with great emotion and great energy."

As he plays on the field, Merriman is just as relentless off it. He was a big presence in the community at Maryland and grew up quick in his household, taking on responsibilities at an early age.

Born to play the hybrid role, Merriman refers to himself as being "cat-quick" and possesses excellent sideline-to-sideline skills.

His persona exudes confidence and it is that twinkle in his eye that had the Chargers sweating it out when Dallas went on the clock. Never in their wildest dreams did they envision Merriman dropping to them at pick 12.

Ask Merriman what his motto is on the football field and the answer is clear.

"Just be relentless, and know you can't be stopped by anybody. But even if you don't get the sack on that play you have to put your hand down and just go 100 percent over and over again."

He couldn't have had a better answer to the question and the Chargers are in love with the player that can dramatically change the way they play defense.

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