Entering his sophomore season, inside linebacker Manti Te’o continues to grow as a member of the Chargers’ defense.
“There’s been a lot of growth for me both scheme-wise and confidence-wise,” Te’o said. “It just feels good to be out here, step on a field and have some level of confidence going into each practice.”
“I’m able to communicate and take some things off of Donald (Butler’s) plate when I need to help him. He has a lot of responsibilities on our defense so any way I can help him, I try to do that.”
Under the direction of Defensive Coordinator John Pagano, the linebacker corps is one of the most competitive positions on the Chargers. With an emphasis on camaraderie and being unselfish, Te’o recognizes that if you play together as one, you’ll have success both on and off the field.
“Everybody has a role and a responsibility and we have to count on the guys next to us,” he said. “That’s how we’re going to be a good defense, when everybody executes their responsibilities to the best of their abilities.”
In an effort to make his team more aggressive this season, Pagano has put his linebackers through various rotations and waves throughout camp. Te’o feels that only serves to make the unit better.
“Whether it be ones, twos, or threes, we’re trying to make sure there’s no drop-off. We want to make sure everybody’s on the same page.”
Getting everyone on the same page takes work, but when you can encourage your players to play to their abilities and to buy in to your scheme, you’ll have more success as a defense. Te’o believes Pagano has done this and the defensive coordinator’s emphasis on scheming to his players’ strengths is what will help the Chargers’ defense shut down offenses this season.
Thursday is the Bolts’ first preseason game. The team will take on the Dallas Cowboys at Qualcomm but regardless of who the opponent is, Te’o said he’s just excited to go out with the defense and play some real football.
“It’s just going to be fun to hit another team,” he said. “Regardless of who we line up against, everyone’s excited because we’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time. We’re going to go out there and have fun, hopefully play well and play together.”