Coach Sadler on Adell Duckett: "Best days ahead"

One thing every NFL team is cognizant of is that no one really knows what to expect out of rookie players. High draft picks like Ryan Leaf can flop, and undrafted free agents like Antonio Gates can electrify. So after spending a high pick this April on pass-rushing specialist Shawne Merriman, the Chargers covered themselves by signing undrafted rookie free agent Adell Duckett from Texas Tech.

Like Merriman, Adell Duckett has been known to terrorize quarterbacks and embarrass offensive tackles on more than one occasion. The six-foot-four, 270-pound defensive end registered 105 tackles and 17.5 sacks during his last two seasons with the Red Raiders, and is still improving. So says Charlie Sadler, Duckett's former defensive ends coach.

"His best days are ahead of him," Sadler said. "I think he has what it takes to play on the next level. Ever since he realized he had a shot to go pro his intensity has really gone up. He's been doing more conditioning and working harder in the weight room to get bigger and stronger."

Duckett knew he had a chance to make the jump to the NFL after his junior season, when he set a school record with 14 sacks, the third-best total in the nation that year. While he got only 3.5 sacks last year, Sadler said that those numbers are misleading.

First of all, there is a quirk in college football where if a defensive player takes down the quarterback and forces a fumble, the defender gets credit for a forced fumble but not for a sack like he would in the NFL. Sadler recalled many occasions where Duckett made such a play.

Duckett also drew increased attention last season, and was still able to collapse the pocket and create sack opportunities for his teammates. So although his numbers weren't as outstanding as they were the year prior, his production certainly was.

"He kind of got a raw deal this year," admitted Sadler of the statistical oddity.

Still, Sadler knows that Duckett has unlimited potential, and is capable of putting up numbers in the NFL reminiscent of those from his breakout junior season. That is because Duckett is a dynamic and versatile athlete, and has been all of his life.

"He's very athletic," Sadler said. "He used to play basketball also, and he was a high school state champ in shot put, so his leaping and explosiveness are really very good."

Duckett has shown the ability not only to play the game, but to understand it as well. That knowledge of the game will serve him well if he is to continue his career on the vastly more complicated professional level.

"The most impressive thing about Adell is his instinctiveness," Sadler said. "He has a great feel as to what is occurring on the field. He's very good at diagnosing trick plays, screens, draws and things like that."

But while Duckett was a very complete college player, he is still far from NFL-ready. The ability is there, but Duckett still must continue working to refine his game if he hopes to stick around on a deep Chargers squad.

"Adell's going to have to continue to take steps forward in his play against the run," conceded Sadler. "He'll have to keep adding more strength and size and continue to work with those types of things."

Although Duckett must continue to fine-tune his game on the field, his off the field presence needs no alteration. He is a very high-character player, something vital on a Chargers team driven by chemistry and team unity.

"He's a very bright person, a quick learner," boasted Sadler. "He was always a good student in school and a real gentleman. He's just a quality person. The Chargers will always be able to count on him to do the right thing off the field. He was a pleasure to coach."

Coach Schottenheimer will get to enjoy that same pleasure this training camp. If Adell Duckett plays as Coach Sadler believes he can, then Schottenheimer may get to enjoy that pleasure into September and beyond.

Michael Lombardo can be reached at

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