Even when he was drafted, Jonas Mouton didn’t exactly excite the fans, most of whom had never heard of him and thought he was a reach when he went in the second round. Two years later, San Diego Chargers fans still groan when they hear his name.
Though it may be unfair to call him a draft bust already, the 2011 second-round pick still hasn’t done anything not to be called one. In two seasons, Mouton has made one tackle on five career snaps.
Similar to fellow inside linebacker Donald Butler, Mouton missed his entire rookie season due to injury. However, unlike Butler, Mouton failed to make any sort of impact once healthy and couldn’t even hit the field on special teams. Even Bront Bird, a final cut before the 2012 season, leapfrogged Mouton during the season and saw the field.
The stars appeared to be aligning for Mouton with the departures of veteran inside linebackers Takeo Spikes and Demorrio Williams. General Manager Tom Telesco was even talking up Mouton and was interested in seeing more of him this upcoming season.
With little depth at inside linebacker, Mouton, by default, could’ve even become a starter next to Butler. However, on draft day, the team signed D.J. Smith and took Manti Te’o in the second round, adding much competition and talent to the position. With Bird and other free agent acquisitions also in the mix, Mouton is now just fighting for a roster spot.
Still, if Mouton were to ever have an opportunity to contribute and make an impact on the team, the time is now. Though expectations are high for Te’o, he’s still a rookie and will need to learn the playbook and adjust to the speed of the NFL. Meanwhile, Smith is coming off a torn ACL and may not be ready to contribute early in the season. Mouton could see plenty of playing time at least in a reserve role, backing up Butler and Te’o.
This offseason, Mouton appears much more physically and mentally ready compared to last offseason, when he was reportedly out of shape and not ready to be the communicator on defense.
“Just like with anything you do in life, the more you work at it, the more you do it, the better you’re going to be,” Mouton said. “As far as this year, it’s all about putting the time in, putting the work in and really, really, really giving it my all. That’s what I plan on doing. … From what I did this offseason, I definitely feel like I’m in better shape, and I’m ready.”
Mouton still has to put his money where his mouth is, but at least he understands that he needs to improve if he wants to keep his NFL dream alive. Mouton now has plenty of competition that he’ll need to outshine just to make the roster, but a solid training camp and preseason should ensure that the third-year pro makes the final roster.