When the San Diego Chargers drafted Manti Te’o in the second round of the 2013 draft (38th overall), many Chargers fans were very excited. Te’o had a huge following coming out of college and was considered a star at Notre Dame. He was a four-year starter for the Fighting Irish and totaled 100 tackles in every season he played middle linebacker at Notre Dame.
Te’o had such a great senior season in which led the Fighting Irish defense to a 12-0 regular season record. The team would lose in the Championship game to the University of Alabama 42-14, but Te’o still totaled 10 tackles in the game. Te’o ended his career at Notre Dame with 437 tackles in his four-year career. That is good for third all time in school history only trailing Bob Crable (521) and Bob Golic (479) in total tackles. Manti Te’o started 47 straight games for the Fighting Irish.
When the draft approached Te’o was viewed as a first round talent. After a slow 40 yard time, his stock slipped from first round talent to possible second or third round pick. Unfortunate that his 40 time was down, but football players need game speed, not 40 yard dash speed. Every year teams spend too much time drooling over 40 times instead of looking whats in the players heart. When playing the game of football, desire to succeed is the most important intangible.
Look at Eric Weddle, not regarded as fast by any means. He does however get himself into position almost every time and he makes the plays when needed. Manti Te’o can be that type of player for the Chargers in the line backing corp. He doesn’t have the best speed, but if he puts himself in the correct position, he will easily make the play.
Te’o professional career did not start out like he envisioned. A foot injury in the first pre-season game against the Seattle Seahawks, sidelined Te’o for the rest of the pre-season and the first three regular season games. He made his debut against the Dallas Cowboys in week four, but Te’o was obviously not 100 percent. He finished his rookie season with 13 games played and 73 tackles and four pass defenses. Not an overall great year for the rookie, but the Chargers clearly saw his potential.
As the 2014 season started, Te’o was going to be counted on to provide some leadership at the linebacker position. He started the season well, but broke his foot in week three against the Buffalo Bills. A very rough start for the season and Te’o ended up missing eight weeks with the injury. He returned week 11 vs the Oakland Raiders and seemed to be moving way better.
The injuries Te’o has suffered have been troubling to say the least. He has a lot of potential, but he must stay on the field to cultivate his talent. The fact Te’o is improving against the pass is a great sign for his future. In fact Te’o played really well the last two games of the year last year. He totaled 11 tackles and a sack in week 16 against the San Francisco 49ers. A very nice performance by the linebacker. He followed that up with 13 tackles in week 17 against the Kansas City Chiefs. A game the Chargers needed to win to advance to the playoffs, but the team failed to do so.
This season the Chargers drafted Denzel Perryman with their second round pick. Perryman is an inside linebacker and teamed with Te’o and Donald Butler, the Chargers have three solid inside backers. It remains to be seen who will start. Butler and his hefty contract figure to start at one position, but the other is going to be a toss-up between the two young linebackers. A healthy competition never hurt anybody.
The San Diego Chargers need their young Samoan linebacker to take his game into the next level. Te’o has all the ability in the world to succeed. He must stay healthy and learn the position even more. The sky is truly the limit for this young man. Chargers fans can only hope those last two games of 2014 are a preview of what Te’o can bring on a weekly basis.