Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

First Impressions: Manti Te'o's NFL Debut

Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports


Before I begin with Manti Te’o, I would like to introduce myself. My name is Conor. I was born and raised in San Diego (and as a Chargers fan) and am currently attending university in Boston. I am excited to start writing about my hometown Bolts. It will be a refreshing change to the incessant Patriots chatt[ah] I hear back east. I am looking forward to a fun time here at FanSided and will be setting up my new Twitter account soon so we can chat Chargers 24/7.


When I sent in my application to FanSided, I wrote a 500-word post praising Manti Te’o as the savior of our defense. While this article is not quite as optimistic as that declaration of inevitable defensive dominance, there are a few positive things I saw from Manti that gives me hope for our lowly defensive unit.


Emotional Game Changer:

Manti Te’o is just as instinctive and hard working as many hoped he would be. He was flying towards the ball on every play to open the game. He recorded his first of many tackles on his first play in the NFL. The very next play, he helped Kendall Reyes contain Tony Romo to secure a sack for Reyes.

On 2nd down after the sack, Te’o was able to get through the Dallas Cowboys’ offensive line in a hurry after the LG, Ronald Leary, pulled towards the right. Te’o was quickly shoved past the play by fellow rookie, C Travis Frederick. But, Romo was flushed out of the pocket by Te’o, with help from Jarrett Johnson, and threw an offline pass to the sideline.

Te’o’s influence on the game was immense during this first drive by the Dallas Cowboys. He was noticeably making plays all over the field, rushing to finish off plays that even occurred across the field. It was inspiring to watch his efforts contribute to the fast start this defensive unit needed against a Cowboys offense that many pundits believed would have a field day against our defense.


Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports


Even after the first series, Te’o continued to play with the effort and enthusiasm he showed at Notre Dame. Te’o was asked to play a shallow zone on 1st and 2nd down numerous times. No matter where the ball was thrown, Te’o was there by the end of the play. I cannot even put into words how good it feels to finally see a Charger play until the whistle on this side of the ball.


Pursuit Against the Run:

Te’o showed an aggressiveness and tenacity in the running game one might not initially expect from such a soft-spoken guy. He was constantly fighting to get around blocks, chasing DeMarco Murray like he had a personal vendetta to settle. What was perhaps even more encouraging than his emotional impact was the strength he showed to disengage blockers and push towards the ball carrier consistently, a la Jarrett Johnson.


Where He Needs Improvement: Experience

Te’o was on the field for less than half of the Chargers defensive snaps. John Pagano seemed to trust the quicker Reggie Walker more in coverage, specifically of Jason Witten. I look forward to Te’o getting more game and practice reps as he continues to work his way back into playing form.

Overall, I am very confident in our rookie linebacker to be the spark the Chargers defense needs to be assertive on every down. Let me know what you guys thought about the #38 pick in the draft. Is it too early to say he was a steal??



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Tags: Manti Te'o San Diego Chargers

  • ninebarrows

    I was pleasantly surprised how the chargers defence ha suddenly become a cohesive unit. A couple more games and I believe they will be unbeatble under Phillip Rivers.

  • Cgoodness13

    Hello Conor, great article. I think once Teo gets some more conditioning in he will be a 3rd down LB

    • Conor Cahill

      I agree. Once he gets more reps and becomes more comfortable with the defense he can easily be a 3 down LB.

  • Adam

    Awesome article man! I used to live near Boston for 2 years in college, 2008-09, and it fueled my hate for the Patriots even more than I already hated them. Boston sucks. I think Te’o did awesome and I can’t wait to see more from him. He’s hungry.

    • Conor Cahill

      Hungry is the perfect adjective.

  • Heidijoy

    Thanks for the Article!! Would love to see the 500 word one too!!!! Glad Te’o made a good start!!
    I know ND misses him!! Go Chargers!! Go Te’o!!!!!!!!!!

  • davacho

    too early to say, but i was impressed that he was around the ball a lot (reminded me of watching weddle- which is a great thing!). good read.

    • arnie

      And that is why TT got him. They needed somone that could play underneath and let Weddle drop into coverage, and take away Whitten.

      • davacho

        weddle could be a pick machine if allowed to!

        • arnie

          Agreed. That is why it’s so important for Pagano to stop pulling Te’o out.

  • Jonah Lee

    well said, love the article Conor!! Keep it up, there’s going to be plenty more to write about this kid.

  • C.Steele

    Nice article Conor! I watched the game at a sports bar, and it was hard to make out when Te’o was on the field. However, I plan on watching the game again tonight in the comfort of the crib. Hopefully, I see all the game plays I missed out on at the bar!

    • Conor Cahill

      He was only the field for 2 plays of the Cowboys’ final 3 drives. Made a huge impact early on, though.

  • arnie

    Great article Conor. I was hoping to see this from the “golden domer”. A kid that had 9 sacks as a junior, and 7 int as a senior showed me he could be a great player for the defense.

  • PakMaN

    Great article, I enjoyed reading this! Welcome!

  • Peter Thompson

    Nice one, connor! I think Te’O is gonna work out.

  • astalavista

    I don’t like that Manti has two tackles on two receivers when his responsibility is to cover tightends in pass coverage, pass rushing or run covering anyone running out of the backfield, some of the players on the defensive side are not fulfilling their responsibilities.

    Firstly his 2nd tackle was on the Cowboys slot receiver C Beasley when Te’o was covering Witten, that was a blown coverage by Butler in the middle because that was his responsibility with no nickel corner in that play and Manti bounce on that and allowed no yards after the catch (YAC).

    Then It was Either Marshall or Cox who gave Dez Bryant that 10 yard cushion and left him wide open( Pagano going soft cover yet again?) and again Te’o who was in the middle of covering Witten, had to leave him and run to the sideline to tackle Bryant for no YAC.

    This is not a good defense and Te’o is elevating this defense and covering up the mistakes of some players, It’s good that Te’o is doing this but I prefer he doesnt make tackles that he really has no business to and that the defense as a whole step up.

    Other than that you can tell when the defense is actually playing well and that’s when other players are actually making plays and Te’o runs to make the tackle but it’s been made already.

    If the defense keeps this up and Te’o plays full-time, he might end up with alot by the end of the season that’s super inflated in numbers- kind of like Patrick Willis rookie year where he had 180 because the 49ers defensive players around him back then suck as hell.

    • Ernie Padaon

      his first tackle was on a running back that should have been stuffed at the line of scrimmage because he sealed the edge, but when that tackle was not made, Te’o had to make it 10 yards down the field. I see what you are saying…but he did set up his teammates for other tackles in that game also and filled his responsibility well. Now if he could only get some playing time

  • humanature

    Just what i was looking for. I was on vacation and forgot to record the Bolts. The only viewing option i had at the time was the red zone channel which was a first for me. im guessing theres a lot of entertainment value for a casual fan who enjoy the NFL but for me the channel was a total buzz kill. Football to me is like having a bunch of newly released movies every weekend to watch. Yes some aren’t that entertaining, there more the artsy type of screen play but you admire the passion and understand the direction of the director and how the actors immerse themselves into there craft. Some are visually striking. and keeps you guessing feeling the tension as the plot comes to the life. others are action pack and even though you know exactly how it will play out you still watch to the very end because of the big plays, sound and “moderately big hits”

  • Hit Manfan

    He had three tackles. Three. He was a high 2nd round pick and while it’s WAY too soon to call him a bust he hasn’t done anything of note. The author has a man-crush on Teo.

    • Ernie Padaon

      who called him a bust… 3 tackles… he played 14 plays… how many tackles did reggie walker get?