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Saints: Manti Te’o looks poised to be a star

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SAN DIEGO, CA - OCTOBER 14: Manti Te'o of the San Diego Chargers prepares to enter the game against the Indianapolis Colts on October 14, 2013 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO, CA - OCTOBER 14: Manti Te'o of the San Diego Chargers prepares to enter the game against the Indianapolis Colts on October 14, 2013 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images) /
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He will probably never live it down. The biggest “Catfish” story ever will not likely ever be forgotten. But Manti Te’o looks like he’s moved past it, and he looks like he’s ready to be not only a leader for New Orleans, but a star as well.

Look at the stat sheet after Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers and you’ll see one name at the top of the defensive statistics: Manti Te’o. The linebacker, who played his first four seasons with the Chargers, led the team in tackles and tackles for loss. He appeared to be all over the field, hitting anything that came in his path.

The former Notre Dame star had tons of promise in his final collegiate season. Until all the attention turned onto the saga of his girlfriend actually being a scam. The Catfish scandal turned the star linebacker into a laughing stock in the public eye. Anywhere you looked, there were people talking about it and mocking him for his unfortunate situation.

Even with the drama surrounding him, the Chargers took Te’o in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft. He missed the first few games of the regular season due to injury. Once he got back in the lineup, he performed well. He ended his rookie season with 61 tackles.

Although he played well in his stint with the Chargers, the one thing holding Te’o back was injuries. He suffered a season ending injury in his fourth and final season with the team. In what was supposed to be a contract season, the team captain was carted off in the third game of the season. He was then placed on the Injured Reserve.

New beginnings

Manti Te’o was looking for a fresh start and signed a two-year contract with New Orleans, with much of the contract being incentive based. Two games into the preseason with the Saints, and Te’o already seems to be fitting in and picking up where he left off when he was healthy.

Of course, it helps when you are familiar with some of the coaching staff. Linebacker coach Mike Nolan coached Te’o when he held the same position with the Chargers in 2015. Nolan says he still sees great things from the linebacker.

"I see a guy that’s every bit like he was before. He’s always been dedicated. He’s always gonna work hard. All those intangible things, Manti’s always been great at it. The thing that I would think that’s most important for him is transitioning in with this group he’s with now. And I think he’s doing a great job with it. He’s always been a great communicator. … I think he’s transitioning well."

Dennis Allen’s 4-3 defensive scheme has certain elements to it that tailor a bit to Manti’s playstyle. He isn’t the fastest guy on the field, but he has the skills and the football IQ to help him stand out and perform. That talent certainly stood out on the field against his former team, as he seemed to be involved in every play during the first half. He even looked at times like another number 51 who used to roam the defensive side of the ball for New Orleans, Jonathan Vilma.

Questions?

The only question that has ever really been the for Te’o since he came into the league is if he can stay healthy. He has missed a total of 26 games in his short career thus far. Barring injury, Te’o will be a star for the Black and Gold. He fits into the scheme of Dennis Allen well, and he is a very good leader. He will be a huge performer when on the field and can also help others perform better with his strong leadership characteristics.

We should expect big things from number 51 this season. He could very well be a key brick in the foundation that turns around the New Orleans defense. Saints fans everywhere know just what can happen if you have an opportunistic defense complimenting a consistently performing offense – winning.

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