Injuries have been a common theme early in the San Diego Chargers 2016 season.
Steven Johnson, Jeff Cumberland, Branden Oliver, Keenan Allen and Danny Woodhead have already been lost for the season by the team, and now Manti Te’o could be added to the list after an Achilles injury suffered on Sunday in Indianapolis.
The starting linebacker went down with a non-contact injury and immediately grabbed at his leg and foot. Early indications are a torn Achilles, but the club will wait ’til Monday to announce what looks to be the inevitable.
So with Te’o out, who is gonna step up? Who is the proverbial next man up?
Luckily for the Chargers the team drafted two inside linebackers in this April’s draft, and Jatavis Brown and Joshua Perry will get plenty of opportunity for the rest of the year. Brown took over for Te’o and had a very productive day on Sunday. He has great speed and looks to be an upgrade over Te’o as far as covering receivers down field. Perry was inactive for the game, but he will surely get plenty of snaps and will have every chance to contribute in the linebacker rotation.
Manti Te’o being injured is not a surprise as the 2nd round pick in the 2013 draft has failed to stay healthy his whole career. Constant foot injuries have plagued the talented linebacker and it is really time for the San Diego Chargers and their management to think about washing their hands of the linebacker this offseason. With two young inside backers already in the system (Perry and Brown), the team has the depth to replace him in the future.
The cold, hard reality of the game of professional football is that you will be replaced if you cannot do your job. In this case, constant injuries could force the Chargers to think in another direction. If you can’t get on the field, you are of no help to your teammates. Te’o plays a pivotal role in the Chargers defense and is a play caller on the field for the defense. Replacing him will not be easy, but thankfully the Chargers have an option that could just about be ready to emerge.
Now that Denzel Perryman has established himself as a key leader of the defense, there could very well be a changing of the guard at the linebacker position. After a slow first two games where he totaled eight tackles, Perryman showed improved play this week recording 10 total tackles and one sack. He was all over the field despite being banged up a bit (back stiffness?) and missing a play or two. The second year middle linebacker comes with a pedigree of success and it is only a matter of time before he takes over as the leader of the team on defense. Perryman is still only 23 and as his experience grows, he will be something very special. Te’o has helped develop Perryman and now that he is injured, his position with the team will be to help get Perryman prepared to lead this defense.
— Michael Gehlken (@sdutGehlken) September 26, 2016
The Chargers have not received the production they wanted from Te’o over his four-year career. Plainly and simply put, the team envisioned far more in terms of production on the field. He has never played more than 13 games in a season and that was in his rookie year where he recorded 62 tackles. Last season Te’o managed to play in 12 games and recorded 83 tackles and a half sack. His play had improved on the field, but there are still issues he needs to fix. His coverage abilities have always been picked on by opposing offensive coordinators. This year was no different, as he was beaten in week 1 by Spencer Ware of the Chiefs to the tune of seven catches for 129 yards. Constant foot injuries have sapped him of his speed and he really lacks the ability to cover any decent receiver down field.
Next man up is what the Chargers theme will be this season. This will surely not be the last injury of the year. The team must move forward.
Eric Williams, the Chargers beat reporter for ESPN, reported early in the year that the Chargers were interested in retaining Te’o long-term. The team probably viewed his 12 games played last season as a step in the right direction as far as proving his durability. This impending season ending injury surely clouds the Chargers view of Te’o and they rightfully will reconsider even thinking about retaining him long-term.
An emotional Manti…
“This is nothing compared to what is going on in my heart….I had so many big dreams”
— Ricky Henne (@ChargersRHenne) September 26, 2016
This could very well be the end for Te’o in San Diego. It is a sad way for any player to go out, but the Chargers have depth to move forward without him. They could also explore free agent possibilities next year to replace him.
A veteran inside backer (Karlos Dansby, Jerrell Freeman, Paul Posluszny) added next offseason would go a long way towards building the youth of the position. The team needs a thumper like that in the middle to stop the run and teach these young pups how to play the position. Te’o is a four-year veteran who has had trouble getting on the field. He is hardly considered a grizzled veteran. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. This team can still win now. It is still early in the year. It will take a total team effort, but stranger things have happened in the sport. Let’s focus on this year before we worry about what the team will do in 2017.
The loss of Manti Te’o is big for the Chargers, but Jatavis Brown looks more than capable at the position. It might be a blessing in disguise having this rookie thrown to the wolves. He will have growing pains on the field. That you can count on. But his athleticism and skill might just turn him into the next big thing on the Chargers defense. With that, you have to come to the deduction that perhaps Manti Te’o has played his last game as a Charger. Stay tuned for the answer.