The San Diego Chargers will play their first regular season game of the 2013 NFL season on Monday at home against the Houston Texans. San Diego could be without 2013 second-round pick and starting inside linebacker Manti Te’o.
U-T San Diego beat writer Michael Gehlken tweeted yesterday “Not officially ruled out Week 1, but Bront Bird preparing to start in Te’o’s place.” Te’o was seen in a walking boot after suffering a foot sprain in San Diego’s first preseason game three weeks ago against the Seattle Seahawks.
San Diego completed a trade with the Arizona Cardinals to move up seven spots in round two and selected Te’o with the 38th overall pick. Donald Butler and Te’o will be San Diego’s starting inside linebackers, and they will be important for the Chargers to stop opponents in the run game.
Houston ranked 16th in the NFL with an average of 4.2 yards per rushing attempt in 2012. Houston’s primary rusher is Arian Foster, who had 27 carries for 127 yards and two touchdowns in his only game against San Diego. Foster also led the NFL with 15 rushing touchdowns and ranked sixth in rushing yards per game last year.
Bird, who entered the league as an undrafted player in 2011, played in 14 games over the last two seasons with zero starts. He entered San Diego’s training camp with his roster spot on the line, but was able to impress the coaching staff enough to make the 53 man roster.
San Diego released Takeo Spikes about six months ago and it became evident the Chargers were going to pair Butler with someone who had no NFL starts. Te’o was ineffective in his only preseason game, but preseason games are overrated at times, so he could be a big part of San Diego’s youth movement this year and beyond.
If Te’o cannot go on Monday, there will be more pressure on Butler to step up for the linebackers and help the defensive line contain Foster.