After allowing 24 unanswered second-half points and appearing gassed in their season opener against the Houston Texans, the San Diego Chargers defense could use all the help they can get as they prepare for the high-flying, up-tempo Philadelphia Eagles offense. However, it doesn’t look like rookie linebacker Manti Te’o will be able to help this defense this week as he continues to nurse a foot injury.
Te’o still hasn’t returned to practice after spraining his foot in the preseason opener on August 8. The original thought was that Te’o would only be out a week, but it’s now been over a month and Te’o’s foot still hasn’t healed. Some wonder if Te’o will be ready to start even if he returns to practice this week, saying that he’s missed too much time and won’t have enough time to prepare. Regardless of how little time he has to prepare, Te’o can’t be much worse than the man who’s currently taking his spot.
Bront Bird was absolutely horrific replacing Te’o against the Texans. Bird was around the ball a lot, leading the team with 14 tackles, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Bird made his presence felt early, stopping Arian Foster on a critical fourth down in the second quarter. However, other than that, most of his tackles were downfield as the Texans attacked him both in the pass and run game. He also allowed two touchdowns to tight ends he was responsible for covering.
Bird is clearly the weak link of the Chargers defense and opposing offenses will continue to take advantage of him as long as he’s on the field consistently. Bird, a high-effort overachiever, simply isn’t a good enough athlete to be counted on in a starting role much longer. The Chargers have to hope Te’o comes back soon so that he resumes his role as a three-down linebacker and kicks Bird back into a reserve role.