Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco had high hopes when he moved up seven spots in the second round of this year’s draft to select middle linebacker Manti Te’0.
Telesco believed Te’0 to be a “first-roud talent” and “fits what [defensive coordinator] John Pagano wants to run.”
He was even more excited about the idea Te’o and linebacker Donald Butler working together to become a force in the middle of the Chargers’ 3-4 defense:
He’s going to complement Donald Butler really well. We really are excited about it. Those two guys are really interchangeable. They can both play (each inside spot). They both can play three downs. So, it’s going to give John some flexibility with those two guys.
Unfortunately, due to injuries to both players, the two have hardly seen the field together all season. However, now with Butler fully recovered from a groin injury, the duo can finally start playing together as Telesco envisioned, and no one is happier about it than Te’o, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune:
Having him back in there? Oh, it’s big.
Te’o praised linebackers Andrew Gachkar and Reggie Walker, who filled in during Butler’s absense. But with only one start between the two, they couldn’t replace Butler’s experience. Before this season Butler had started 28 games, all next to veteran and former teammate Takeo Spikes.
In college, Te’0 had played in 51 games at Notre Dame. However, he missed all but nine snaps of the preseason, and he was going to have his fair share of growing pains as a rookie. Missing Butler hasn’t helped, according to Te’o:
When Donald was out, it was the biggest growing part for me, not having him in there to tell me what to do, to make sure that I knew what I was I doing – (having) to really learn it by myself.
Now that Donald’s back in there, I have all that knowledge now, and then he just adds the little things, the little things that help me make certain plays,” he said. “He has the experience; he has the knowledge.
Te’o has so far missed the leadership that Butler had with Takeo Spikes. However, that should now change. After missing three games, Butler played all 60 snaps against the Denver Broncos last week. The defense held Denver to a season-low 28 points, including only seven in the second half.