San Diego Chargers Player Focus: Larry English

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

With Dwight Freeney out for the rest of the season, Larry English is the linebacker seeing the most snaps on defense for the San Diego Chargers. How well is he playing?

Here is what I wrote about Larry English during the preseason:

"Dwight Freeney has spent the last couple seasons battling injuries, and Jarret Johnson has already missed some of camp with injury. Both players ahead of him on the depth chart will be 32 at the start of the season. English will be seeing more time on the field this season, and the depth at OLB will force him to produce.

This is a make or break year for Larry English. This is the last year of his rookie contract, and he is expected to see an expanded role over past seasons. After this year, either the Chargers will be attempting to lock him up to an extension, or will be letting him go, possibly never to play again."

This turned out to be very true. Freeney is done for the year, and Johnson has missed the last 2 games. This is English's big opportunity to show what he can do.

First Quarter
  • English starts the Jaguars first drive with a curious play. He step forward like he is going to rush, and then drops into a zone. But he drops so slowly that if there were a receiver running a route through it, he would have been no where near a position to stop it. I can't say exactly what his assignment here was, but he looked slow carrying it out.
  • The next play he gets blocked solidly by Marcedes Lewis while Maurice Jones-Drew runs for 11 yards.
  • The next play English is blocked by Lewis again, but Jones-Drew runs into a wall at the line. English manages to shed Lewis and take Jones-Drew down for a gain of only one yard. It was a nice hustle play by English, and the defensive line as a whole.
  • The next play is Larry English's first pass rush of the day. He is blocked solidly by RT Austin Pasztor and chipped by Jones-Drew for good measure.
  • English was not a contributor to the Corey Liuget sack a couple of plays later, he was well blocked by Pasztor again.
  • He DID contribute on the sack by Jahleel Addae on the very next play, though. He was able to push Pasztor back and cut inside. He was right in front of Chad Henne when Addae made contact, preventing any possibility of a pass.
Second Quarter
  • On the second play of the Jaguars second drive, English makes a good tackle on a Jones-Drew run, stopping him for a gain of 1 from behind. Pasztor moved to the second level to block Andrew Gachkar, leaving English unblocked. English wasted no time and was in the backfield to take down Jones-Drew quickly.
  • The next play is a 3rd and 1 with Jones-Drew running up the middle. Manti Te'o makes first contact in the gap and gets pushed back a bit, and English joins to tackle Jones-Drew from behind for a 2 yard gain.
  • Random note: Larry English running through the open field seems lazy. He isn't moving at a slower speed than everyone else, so I don't think he is dogging it. It just looks like he is running at a jog. It reminds me of when Andruw Jones was with the Atlanta Braves, he made getting to long fly balls looks like a lazy jog.
  • Larry is mixing up being down in a three-point stance and standing, but he is at the line of scrimmage every single play.
  • After the Chargers ended the Jaguars first drive with two consecutive sacks, the Jaguars are sticking with quick passing plays, throwing to receivers near the line of scrimmage. English hasn't had time to make any kind of impact as of yet.
  • In the middle of the Jaguars second drive, English took a breather for a few plays, replaced by Tourek Williams.
  • English did not contribute any pressure on the Thomas Keiser sack in the second quarter, he continues to be well blocked by Paszkar on passing plays.
  • On 1st and 15, English is blocked by Lewis, but does hustle to eventually break it on a Jones-Drew run. Eric Weddle makes the tackle after Jones-Drew goes for 7 yards, but English was right there in the mix as well.
Third Quarter
  • Maurice Jones-Drew goes for an 8 yard run to start the third quarter. English is easily blocked by Lewis again, and he doesn't even make Lewis budge from his position.
  • English stunts inside a couple of plays later. His technique is good and he goes after the gap with good burst. Unfortunately, he gets double-teamed by the C Brad Meester and RG Uchi Nwaneri.
  • The first play of the Jaguars second drive has English dropping back in a zone, and someone actually being in that zone for the first time. He doesn't appear to do it well, as the receiver was wide open if Henne had seen him. Instead, Henne threw a short pass to Jones-Drew up the middle.
  • English drops in zone again, and this time Henne doesn't miss that the WR Mike Brown, whom English is "covering", is wide open. Brown sprints down the field for a 43 yard gain. So far English has displayed some terrible coverage skills.
  • English gets a good swat attempt at a quick pass to the right to Cecil Shorts. Misses, but shows good awareness of the quarterback.
  • Every time English tries to rush to the outside of Pasztor's shoulder, Jones-Drew gives him a solid chip. English hasn't been effective bull-rushing, and I haven't seen any effective swim or rips to the inside either. That limits what he can do, and the Jaguars appear to be well prepared for it.
  • English goes to the right side as the Chargers rush only three on 3rd and goal from the 5. English gets past RT Cameron Bradfield, but doesn't get to Henne before the ball is out and on its way to the receiver.
Fourth Quarter
  • English beats Marcedes Lewis to bring good pressure from Chad Henne's right side on Thomas Keiser's second sack of the day.
  • On the next play, Henne drops back and English is well blocked. Henne tries to scramble up the middle and English does a great job tracking Henne and holding him to a 1 yard gain.
  • English is having a good series, as he is double-teamed by Pasztor and Lewis and still manages to get his hands on Henne as he is throwing.
  • On the first play of the next drive, English slips at the snap and falls down, taking himself out of the play before it really starts.
  • English stunts inside on the next play. He is well blocked, but he is close enough that Henne opts to roll out to the right to create space to make the pass to Shorts.
  • English continues to have a solid fourth quarter. Henne tries to scramble up the middle again, and again English takes him from behind, this time half a yard behind the line of scrimmage for a sack. Good hustle by English.
  • Pasztor blocks English well for the remaining few plays of the series.
  • Looks like the Chargers let English rest to start the Jaguars last series of the game.
  • English comes in and is lining up on the right side. He hasn't generated any pressure yet, but he seems to be having a much easier time shedding blockers on from the defensive right.
  • Pasztor has essentially spent the entire second half diving at English's legs. He's doing it on nearly every play. It stops or slows English, but leaves a big gap for someone else to rush through. I'm surprised Pagano hasn't tried to send a second rusher right behind English to take advantage of that.
Final Thoughts

No one expects English to fully replace the damage Dwight Freeney was doing in the backfield early on this season. English does have some weak areas. He doesn't have an initial move that can reliably get him past blockers. The (admittedly few) times he dropped into coverage, he was terrible.

I did notice some good things about his play though. While he doesn't have the ability to make it into the backfield quickly, he does work hard and hustle to get back back there eventually. This led him to stopping a number of runs and quarterback scrambles for 2 yards or less. He had a good fourth quarter, showing he is able to sustain a level of play throughout the game.

I can't tell you how well he does against the run at the point of attack, Jacksonville did not attempt a single run to the right. He also was double-teamed or chipped by Jones-Drew a good number of passing plays. The Jaguars clearly respected him enough to try and take him out of the game.

Larry English is purely a 3-4 outside linebacker. He is meant to be rushing the passer, and I hope Pagano doesn't ask him to drop back in coverage much in the future. English is a great hustle play maker, and was effective making backside stops against the Jaguars. He doesn't seem to have the ability to outright defeat offensive linemen that most great pass rushers have, but he isn't an outright embarrassment.

I am not sure what the future holds for English after this season. I don't think he is playing well enough to get a contract extension from Tom Telesco, but he might find a role as a backup somewhere in the future.

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