Outside of one massive interception off Brett Favre that was returned for a touchdown and helped seal a division title for the Dolphins in Week 17 of his rookie season, the story of Phillip Merling, thus far, has been one of disappointment. As the first pick of the second round in 2008, Miami had high hopes for the star defensive end out of Clemson. He played in all 32 games in his first two seasons with the Dolphins and finished with 59 tackles, 3.5 sacks and that big pick six.
Unfortunately, things fell apart for him in the offseason in 2010. First, he was arrested and charged with aggravated battery on a pregnant woman in a case that was eventually dismissed. Then, he tore his Achilles tendon before the season started. He managed to come back early from the injury that year, but struggled with different maladies and never lived up to his potential the next two seasons. He was finally released by Miami after the 2011 season. The Packers signed him shortly after his release, but he failed to impress and was released by them in October of 2012 after playing in only three games.
The Redskins signed him to a futures contract in January and took a flier on him, as they were looking for depth at the defensive end spot, and he had experience playing in the 3-4 defense. His chances to make the team, however, were fairly slim in 2013 until Adam Carriker suffered an injury setback that took him out of the equation for the upcoming season. Then, Jarvis Jenkins was suspended for the first four games of the year after testing positive for performance enhancing drugs.
On top of that, in training camp, the 6'5" 315lbs Merling has flashed some of the skills that made him a second round pick in 2008. He is currently listed as the third-string right defensive end behind Stephen Bowen and Kedrick Golston, but had a strong preseason game against the Titans finishing with three tackles, one sack and one pass deflection. The situation the team is in with the defensive end position has given him a golden opportunity. Merling will need to show over the next three games that he can build on his solid early returns.