Thanks to a nagging right foot injury, San Diego Chargers inside linebacker Manti Te’o didn’t quite have the impact he was looking for as a rookie in the heart of the Chargers defense, but he’s poised for a solid 2014 campaign now that he’s on the mend. The Chargers didn’t have many free agents to tend to this offseason, but one key FA they quickly locked up was young ILB Donald Butler, and he and Te’o should form one of the better young inside duos in the league if all goes as planned.
Te’o sounds excited to get the season underway, as he recently gave the old “best shape of my life” routine. He said, via Michael Gehlken of the U-T San Diego, “I’m in the best shape of my life. The way I feel, the control I have over my body, I’m the same weight but physically I’m just different. Mentally, obviously, I have a year under my belt. I can build off of that.”
The 23-year-old trained in Hawaii earlier this offseason, and it will be interesting to see how healthy he looks at the start of OTAs. He’s confident words are infectious, of course, and I wouldn’t bet against Te’o playing at a solid level next year. He had just 62 tackles and four passes defended last season due to a stress fracture, but he did look lively in pass protection. That was to be expected, though, because it was a huge strength of his coming out of Notre Dame. His downhill run defense will be significantly better next season since he’ll actually be healthy, and it certainly sounds like the instinctive second-year pro has put in a great deal of work so far this offseason.