Stephen Brashear/Associated Press
The Chargers could survive their troubles up front if second-year linebacker Manti Te'o continues to evolve as a defender.
That's easier said than done—Te'o is sidelined yet again with a foot injury.
Te'o's sprained left foot prevented him from playing at San Francisco. For most players this would be of minor concern, but Te'o dealt with a foot injury less than a year ago: In his rookie season, he sprained his right foot and was out for the Chargers' first three regular-season games, an injury that after the season would require surgery on a fractured bone in that foot.
It's likely that Te'o played hurt for the entirety of the 2013 campaign.
Te’o certainly had his share of “welcome to the NFL” moments as a rookie, but he showed flashes of being a quality cover linebacker. A season of full health would help his development and San Diego's defense in a big way. Now the Chargers have to wait and see if this injury is as serious as last year's.
Te'o should be cleared for the start of the regular season—he was seen walking in the locker room without a protective boot, according to ESPN’s Eric D. Williams.
Although that's a relief, Te'o could have used the extra reps in the 49ers game, as his tackling still needs improvement. On one play against Seattle, running back Robert Turbin gave Te'o a stiff arm and escaped on what should have been a tackle for loss. That won't fly in the regular season.
Te'o can get better as a linebacker, as his status as a second-round pick suggests he should. But improvement for a young player necessitates him staying on the field and getting valuable playing time.
Teo's health is an issue the Chargers must monitor going forward.