For one, the Bolts ranked No. 18 in pass defense, and part of that was attributed to lackluster coverage at the intermediate level.
On the season, San Diego managed just 14 interceptions, and although the run defense was solid by only allowing 3.8 yards per carry, offenses were able to slam the trenches enough for an effective play action. There, it's not so much about big yards as it is keeping the Chargers' front seven off balance.
Presenting Te'o on the inside, though, provides great production and a nose for locating the ball all over the field. In an article by Michael Gehiken of the San Diego Union-Tribune, general manager Tom Telesco commented on Te'o's abilities:
We thought, on our defense, we were missing that other inside linebacker. Te’o can step in. We thought he was the most instinctive and productive linebacker in the draft. He’s going to fit in excellent with our 3-4 defense with how we’re going to play our linebackers. He’s going to complement Donald Butler really well. We thought in order to get him we had to be aggressive and go up and do it.
In addition to helping Donald Butler on the interior, Te'o's impact will be of immense assistance to edge-rusher Melvin Ingram. Factor in the already reliable production from Corey Liuget and Kendall Reyes along the defensive line, and Te'o will see clean paths to fill lanes.
Considering that he stockpiled 437 tackles for the Fighting Irish from 2009 through 2012, Te'o drastically improved his coverage awareness last fall. By snagging seven interceptions and defending 11 total passes, his wherewithal made him a complete player.
Obviously a major downside in not getting off blocks was exploited versus Alabama in the BCS National Championship. That said, the Crimson Tide also fielded an NFL-caliber offensive line.
Te'o will be restricted to a specific role between the tackles in San Diego.
Simply reacting against the run will come easy courtesy of the defensive line, and he won't be in coverage long with the Bolts' dependable pass rush. As a result, all Te'o needs to do is continue making plays on the ball and dissecting the run from the snap.
Through pro football development, he will improve at shedding blocks, blitzing and isolating in man coverage. For now, though, Te'o's current ability suits well to effectively transition into the NFL.