The Chargers defense has undergone some changes since the end of last season, including the departure of safety Eric Weddle after nine seasons with the team.
Weddle’s departure opens a hole in the secondary and it opens a hole in the team’s leadership as Weddle had been an experienced and esteemed member of the unit. During an appearance on Sirius XM NFL Radio with Zig Fracassi and former Chargers linebackers coach Mike Nolan, Chargers linebacker Manti Te’o said that “there’s no way to replace” a player like Weddle but that someone still has to step up “to be the voice of the defense.”
Te’o says he is the right man for that job.
“I think, collectively, we’ve done a great job,” Te’o said. “Me, myself, I’ve kind of taken over that responsibility of being that voice. Talking to Coach Nolan, I kind of had that opportunity last year and having Coach Nolan by my side to help me and mentor me … He had a whole bunch of successful linebackers that he got to coach and so for me to learn from him how to be a leader and just how to be me and consistently be me really helped me out a lot, so I kind of took over those reins.”
There are a couple of defensive players who have been with the Chargers longer than Te’o and veterans like Brandon Mebane and Brandon Flowers that have had longer careers with multiple teams, but Te’o was the defensive signal caller last season and that’s a role that lends itself to a leadership one as well. With his contract up after the season, doing both of those jobs well while also thriving on the field could lead to the kind of stay that Weddle enjoyed in San Diego.