Head Coach Anthony Lynn announced on Monday what was obvious to anyone who caught the season opener – Sam Tevi is set to take over for the time being at right tackle after Joe Barksdale was carted off the field in the first quarter with a knee injury.
"As of right now, Sam is the starting right tackle," he said. “Sam has been the swing tackle since day one of training camp. We knew that if someone went down that he would step in at left tackle or right tackle. That's what we're going to do.”
If that remains the case, this would mark the second-year tackle’s second career start. His only other one came in the Bolts’ Week 16 win a year ago over the New York Jets when he manned the left tackle spot in place of Russell Okung.
Tevi was awfully impressive in that game, playing all 73 snaps on offense, so the Chargers expect him to be up to the task once again against the Buffalo Bills.
“(Sam’s development) really (was on display) last year in the Jets game when he played and he really got a full game of action, and he did pretty (well) in that game,” noted Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt. “There’s always some things you can correct as a young player. I think more than anything, it was the sense of urgency about his preparation. When you’re a young player and you know you’re not playing, you have a tendency to drift and maybe not pay as much attention or work on it. And then all of a sudden, you’re in there and it’s like, ‘Oh my gosh.’ But, he had a good spring and a good training camp, so he was prepared to step in and he did a good job with that (vs. the Chiefs).”
So, who exactly is Sam Tevi?
The 6-5, 315-pounder was the Chargers’ sixth-round pick (190th overall) in the 2017 NFL Draft. He actually began his collegiate career as a defensive tackle before switching to the offensive side of the ball. Thus, the Bolts knew there would be a learning curve for Tevi once he arrived. The good news is they’ve seen him grow exponentially over the past year as he learns the nuances of the position. He credits savvy vets like Okung and Joe Barksdale for helping him become the player he is today.
“Having vets like Russ and Joe, I’ve learned a lot,” he said. “Going to them everyday picking their brain, it’s helped me out so much.”
As far as his physical traits go, there is no doubt that he has the raw skills to succeed. In fact, Philip Rivers noted how Tevi’s athleticism is off the charts.
“Sam is super athletic,” Rivers said. “Super athletic. He can run. He’s big and strong, and he’ll only get better with more and more reps, which he’s about to get all week in practice and in the game on Sunday.”
Tevi agreed with that assessment, explaining how his athleticism does give him an edge. At the same time, he stressed there are other factors at play that are far more important than that part of his game.
“Athleticism can only take you so far,” he said. “Athleticism to me is probably 30 (percent) of it, with 70 being assignment-sound and technique-sound. Those types of things they teach us on the football field are more important.”
While Tevi held his own against the Chiefs, he emphasized a need to be better than he was after being thrust into action at a moment’s notice against the Chiefs. While he didn’t start out the way he wanted, Tevi believes he ended the game on a high note, which gives him a ton of confidence heading into Week 2.
“I think I had a real slow start,” he said bluntly. “But as soon as it all came together, I picked it up. This game I know I have to start off fast. I can’t afford to start off slow. I’ll be ready.”