Outside linebacker Larry English enters his fourth professional season, but he's missed 19 games over the past two seasons including 11 in 2011. When the Chargers' rookies reported to camp, Norv Turner made the decision to have English and a couple other veterans report as well.
While a newly signed veteran Jackie Battle and a sophomore player like Jonas Mouton aren't going to make headlines for showing up with the rookies, a player doing so in his fourth season is rather unique. Turner made a wise decision by asking English to report with the rookies, not just because English can use the extra repetitions, but because it lets English know his status with the team is far from secure.
English now faces an uphill battle just to be a role player, and Turner sent a message to make sure he knows it. Sending a message is a trait you typically see from a good leader, not from someone like Turner.
The reigning champions New York Giants have Tom Coughlin leading the team, and he's famous for being strict about his meeting schedule. It's a device Coughlin uses to send a message to all of his players that he expects them to go above and beyond. It's leadership.
With Turner on the hot seat, there's good reason for him to make a few changes to the way he handles the team. Perhaps Turner has realized doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is going to buy him a ticket out of town. It's this type of tough love, leadership, that can save Turner's job.
Turner knows the team would be much better off if it can get something from its 2009 first-round draft pick in 2012. English is considered a bust by many and it's hard to argue otherwise, but it's never wise to throw out a solid player because of failed expectations.
The Chargers brought in free-agent linebacker Jarret Johnson—an excellent run defender—and drafted pass-rushing outside linebacker Melvin Ingram in the 2012 NFL draft in hopes of pushing English down the depth chart. A healthy English could still be a valuable depth linebacker for the Chargers and he certainly has the talent to be something more.
English had a rough rookie season in 2009, but he hasn't been too bad whenever he manages to stay healthy. In 2010, English received a near average grade from ProFootballFocus and was only slightly below average in 2011.
If Turner's ploy to press English is successful, he could have a rebound year and help the defense rebound from a sub-standard 2011. Turner needs to do more of this type of leadership to shed the "soft coach" label that he has earned in his career.
The next step for Turner is making sure veteran cornerbacks Antoine Cason and Quentin Jammer know that their jobs are at serious risk by giving Marcus Gilchrist and Shareece Wright the majority of the snaps with the first team during the opening days of training camp.