As a lifelong San Diego Chargers fan, the position that stands out most in my mind as the staple of the Bolts is middle linebacker. The team enjoyed more than a decade with one of league’s all-time best in Junior Seau manning the quarterback role on the defense. It’s tough to say whether they have truly found a similar player with their trade up in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft, but the parallels are certainly worth mentioning.
Manti Te’o was in the news for all of the wrong reasons recently, but if we block out the catfish hoax and the 4.82 40-yard dash time at the NFL Scouting Combine, maybe we can focus in on the player himself. That’s what the Chargers must have done in trading up to snag Te’o with the 38th overall selection in early round two. General Manager Tom Telesco made a tough choice in parting ways with a veteran leader at inside linebacker in Takeo Spikes earlier this offseason, but now it seems the Bolts have found his replacement.
Donald Butler is already one of the best players on the entire defense for San Diego, and the presence of an instinctive player like Te’o alongside him in the 3-4 alignment will only further enhance his abilities. While the worries with the former Notre Dame linebacker are justified for a lack of speed, they are certainly augmented by his tremendous instincts which take a backseat to no one in this year’s draft class. There were plays during his time in South Bend where it seemed like Te’o had eyes in the back of his head and that will definitely be useful in adjusting to the next level.
Defense was the stronger side of the ball for the Chargers in 2012 so if they can subtly improve at the linebacker level in the coming year, that will only increase their level of success. The addition of Te’o infuses even more youth into a unit that is already quite young across the board, especially after purging veterans like the aforementioned Spikes as well as long time cornerback Quentin Jammer earlier in the offseason.
While Te’o has been the butt of many jokes over the past few months, his character has only shown through even brighter throughout that ordeal. The Chargers clearly feel that situation is behind him as a man and will have zero impact on his play when he gets with the team. This fit just makes too much sense not to work, and the Bolts can only hope that this Samoan can follow in the footsteps of the late Junior Seau in San Diego.