Like most draft seasons, the Chargers came away with another UDFA class that was devoid of any players with notable name recognition. Unless you spent most of the offseason in the trenches watching film of fringe-draftable players, you probably hadn’t heard a single name of any of the team’s UDFAs.
However, if you kept the Twitter notifications on for NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein, you may have caught a glimpse of one of them: former Arkansas State defensive tackle Forrest Merrill.
In the video below posted by Zierlein from late February, you can see a rep between Merrill and the interior of Georgia’s offensive line. More specifically, he’s going up against 2020 draft picks Ben Cleveland (RG) and Trey Hill (C).
After the snap, both Hill (55) and Cleveland (74) execute a double-team, getting hip-to-hip in an attempt to drive Merrill off the ball and into the lap of the linebacker behind him. However, Merrill isn’t having it. After contact is made, you can see the big man drop an anchor with his backside foot and immediately shuck Cleveland off with his play-side hand, allowing him to freely pursue the running back.
At 6’0 and 320+ pounds, Merrill is about as stocky as they come in the NFL. He’s looks like a literal bowling ball on the field. That does wonders for leverage in the run game, but it doesn’t quite help him as a pass-rusher, and that’s exactly how you should view Merrill as a player. The Chargers have themselves a traditional nose tackle who has shown the ability to win with natural leverage and pure, unadulterated strength and, at times, has shown he can upend a center to get to the quarterback from time to time.
Over his three-year career with the Red Wolves, Merrill finished with 117 total tackles, 17.5 tackles for loss, and 8.5 sacks. At his position, those numbers are just fine.
His 2019, however, could have been much better if it wasn’t for a season-ending injury. Through the team’s first five games, Merrill collected 4.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. That put him on pace to top both his career highs of 7.5 and 4.5 from a year ago, but it just wasn’t meant to be.
At the end of the day, I think the signing of Christian Covington killed any chance that Merrill had of making the initial 53-man roster. He is a true nose tackle with little range but offers immense strength at the point of attack to gobble up double-teams without giving up a lot of ground. There’s a place for him in the NFL with the right system, but I don’t if he’ll get that chance with the Chargers.