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.

Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

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??