By Cameron Buford, whatsgoodinsports.com

As the unofficial ambassador of the Chargers, I thought it would be interesting to hear his thoughts on this new version of the Chargers team, with the Chargers season a few short weeks away. I asked him to share his perspective on a few of their key players along with their new Head Coach. Shawne and I also discussed what he has been up to since his days playing in the NFL.

The then-San Diego Chargers selected Shawne Merriman with the 12th pick of the 2005 NFL Draft. This 6’ 4” 264-pound linebacker wasted no time making his presence felt in the NFL. As a rookie, Merriman led the team in Sacks (10) that season while also leading the team in Tackles for Loss (10) during his rookie season. He was one of 1 of 10 Chargers players to be named to the Pro Bowl that season.

As a former linebacker, I figured Merriman would be among the best people to ask about the Chargers’ second-year Linebacker Kenneth Murray, their 23rd pick of the first round of the recent NFL Draft. Though Murray will be playing with his new coaching staff in only his second season, Coach Brandon Staley has a history of putting defenders in the best situation to perform at their highest potential.

When asked about Kenneth Murray, his eyes lit up when he talked about the Chargers’ first-round pick of the 2020 NFL Draft. “Explosive as hell” is how Merriman initially described Murray. He added, “he is a guy, that every time you look up, he is around the football. No matter what sideline the ball goes to, he is always around the football. When he gets there, he is not trying to tackle guys and get them on the ground, he’s exploding through guys and finishing plays! What’s happens is, it feeds off to the rest of the defense!”

When speaking to Merriman, the NFL’s 2005 Defensive Rookie of the Year, I felt it would be interesting to hear his thoughts on the Chargers’ 5th year Running Back Austin Ekeler. So, I asked Shawne about defending Ekeler he responded by saying, “He can hurt in different ways of the game. Not just running the football, you got to worry about him coming out the backfield. On screens, being one on one with a linebacker, if they spread him out, there’s a lot of ways Austin Ekeler can hurt you.”

Shawne continued by speaking on the versatility of Ekeler and how he schematically strengthens the offense. “More importantly, I think that he provides options; you have some of these guys that are first and second down guys, and they’re running the ball, and you bring in a third-down back. Well, Austin Ekeler, if they wanted to, they could keep him in the game for all three downs. That way they could keep the defense guessing.”

For several seasons of Keenan Allen’s career, he has been among the most overlooked, in addition to being the most underrated receiver in the NFL. For years, it’s been peculiar as to why many pundits continuously don’t have him ranked among the league’s elite receivers. That being said I wanted to hear from an All-Pro defender why this may be.

So, I asked Merriman about his thoughts on this, “Keenan is like art! His route running and his game is like art.” He then made a unique comparison when he compared his game to an Andy Warhol painting. “You ever see a picture on the wall, and you’re like why is this picture like $150,000, or a quarter of a million dollars and you’re like what’s up with this picture. That’s what Keenan is; his route running and what he does is art. So it’s not appreciated as much because he doesn’t do that Julio Jones do or DeAndre Hopkins, on one of these guys.”

You don’t have to be an art enthusiast to understand the comparison Merriman intended to make, as he elaborated on his statement by saying, “So that’s how I look at Keenan Allen’s game because it’s not flashy it’s just art.” I would add that Allen’s consistency separates him from his peer group, coupled with the fact that he is not loud and braggadocios.  

When asked about new Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley, Merriman said, “the first thing that I notice about him is his energy. His energy is very high, he is very direct, and he’s motivated! He’s younger, so you can hear the motivation in his voice. He’s a very work smarter, not harder type of dude. He knows if this team is healthy, their going to be a problem in the NFL, especially in this division. One thing I like about him is, he lets the players do them. I think they’re going to have a big year; more importantly, they got a leader in Brandon Staley.”

Chargers fans will be allowed to attend training camp as the Los Angeles Chargers kick off their 2021 Training Camp, 9:00 am Wednesday, July 28th at Jack Hammett Sports Complex at 2750 Fairview Rd, Costa Mesa, CA 92626. Bolts fans can attend Training Camp by pre-registering for their free tickets at chargers.com/camp. On July 31st, the Bolts will celebrate NFL Training Camp: Back Together Saturday, this will include a special giveaway for fans in attendance. Additionally, fans will enjoy expert commentary on practice from members of the Chargers radio broadcast team.

One of the things Shawne Merriman has been doing post-career is promoting his Lights Out Extreme Fighting events. After being shut down, just as the pandemic hit the globe last year, they will now be having their first event since, on Saturday, August 7th at the Commerce Casino (6131 Telegraph Rd., Commerce, CA., 90040). You can find more information on https://www.lightsoutxf.com/, you will see that tickets start at $65 – Cageside $175.

It was great to get a former NFL Pro Bowlers perspective on the potential of these young Chargers, along with his thoughts on the new Head Coach Brandon Staley’s. It was also great to hear how Merriman has transitioned with life after football. Kindly share your thoughts on Shawne Merriman and how these descriptions compare to your perspective on these Chargers. You can reach out to me on Twitter @whatsgoodnsport or shoot me an email at info@whatsgoodinsports.com. I encourage you to forward any suggestions on what topics or angles about this new version of the Los Angeles Chargers you would like to see discussed this season. 

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