Chargers fans might have felt like there was no viable reason to continue to follow their hometown team, no matter if it was at the “Q” or on the road. After the horrendous 4-12 season that we all watched unfold, coupled with the uncertainty surrounding the team staying in San Diego, it didn’t seem like there was much to be positive about moving forward.
Don’t write them off just yet.
With the stadium issue at least temporarily resolved for one more season, let’s all start looking toward what could be for the 2016 campaign.
A pair of reasons to be positive can be found among the linebackers: Manti Te’o and Denzel Perryman.
In following some of social media with respect to the Bolts, I know there are many people out there who might like nothing better than to see Te’o in anything other than a Chargers’ uniform. The truth of the matter is, that he has progressively gotten better, for two reasons: his sidekick Denzel Perryman and former linebackers coach Mike Nolan. Both inside linebackers, these two guys play alongside one another as if they can read the other’s mind. Is this pairing what San Diego’s general manager Tom Telesco had in mind when he submitted Perryman’s name in the draft? Time will tell.
One is the finesse player, the other is the thumper.
Te’o came to San Diego when the Chargers traded up to the No. 38 overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft to grab the Notre Dame linebacker. He had a stellar career at Notre Dame: 437 tackles (212 solo), 8.5 sacks and seven interceptions, was a unanimous All-American and won the Lott Trophy, Nagurski Trophy, Butkus Award, Lombardi Award, Bednarik Award, Maxwell Award and Walter Camp Player of the Year, finishing second in Heisman Trophy voting to Johnny Manziel.
Perryman was Telesco’s 2015 second-round draft pick (No. 48). A huge hitter with a willingness to fill holes and take on offensive linemen, he had a reputation for being extremely physical and an excellent tackler (as evidenced by his receiving the 2013 Hard Hitter Award). His statistics while playing for the Hurricanes (96 tackles, 7 TFLs, 2 sacks, 1 INT, 4 PBUs (passes broken up), 3 forced fumbles) led him to be one of five finalists for the Butkus Award.
“You love it, it’s exciting,” defensive coordinator Pagano said of the young duo. “They’re both good players. One’s got great instincts. The other one’s going to knock your head off. It’s a good one-two combination of having those guys being able to play next to one another.”
He also had similar impressions of the pair after their respective drafts, stating that Te’o had great instincts, was a smart football player and played at a high level while at Notre Dame. Regarding Perryman: “He’s a smart football player, he’s got great instincts and he’s a hell of a tackler. He’s somebody we’ve got to find a way to keep building on it.”
Look at these stats: in the four games that they started together (Jacksonville, Denver and both against Kansas City), Te’o and Perryman combined for 87 solo tackles, two sacks (both came in the Chiefs game with the one by the rookie on Alex Smith resulting in a 14 yard loss). Te’o has the only interception, picking off Jaguars QB Blake Bortles last December.
The future is bright for the dynamic duo in the middle of the team’s linebacking corps. Now that Perryman has his rookie season under his belt, the impact of both on defense should only improve with time. As their chemistry builds, the entire defense will only benefit from their ability to complement each other.