Manti Te'o should improve with experience

SAN DIEGO -- A quick look at Sunday’s box score shows that San Diego Chargers rookie linebacker Manti Te'o totaled three tackles in his regular-season debut against the Dallas Cowboys.

Te’o, who had been sidelined since suffering a sprained foot in preseason play back in August, wanted to play more. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Te’o was in on just 14 snaps.

San Diego coach Mike McCoy said Dallas played “11” or “Kings” personnel most of the game, meaning the Chargers had three receivers, one running back and a tight end. They countered by playing with five or six defensive backs to match up personnel-wise.

So Te’o was replaced by nickel linebacker Reggie Walker, who totaled 44 snaps and four combined tackles.

Although Te’o wasn’t on the field a lot, he made an impact when he was. Specifically, Te’o got to the ball on every play, bringing an energy and swagger that is desperately needed on San Diego’s defense.

“He needs to continue to fly around,” McCoy said. “His strength is to run to the ball and make plays, and that’s what the game is all about. The more snaps he gets, the better shape he gets in every week he’s playing, and the more practice time he gets, he’s just going to get better and better.”

With just two forced turnovers in four games, the Chargers are looking for some playmaking on defense. And that’s something Te’o has shown he can do from his college days at Notre Dame. He finished with 113 tackles and seven interceptions his final season for the Fighting Irish.

The Chargers should see more traditional, two-back formations against Oakland on Sunday, which should mean more time for Te’o.