There’s an Amber Alert out at Chargers Park. Donald Butler is missing. I don’t know if there’s a reward for information as to his whereabouts, but if you do see him, please show him the way to the team facility.
There’s been some guy on the Chargers defense wearing #56, but that really isn’t THE Donald Butler, but some imposter. I say this because it’s quite apparent the real Donald Butler, the captain of the defense and impact player has been absent.
The guy wearing #56 is putting up career norms in terms of tackles, but there’s no impact. No game changing presence. That guy out there looks pedestrian. Sometimes he looks lost, and other times looks just straight up stupid — does the Personal Foul call when Ronnie Hillman was on the ground on both knees and #56 speared him ring a bell?
As an inside linebacker, one of the responsibilities is to keep an eye on the backfield and watch for the improvisational run on pass plays. That just hasn’t happened as the likes of Carson Palmer and Alex Smith got big gains on the Charger defense when the pass wasn’t there. Inside linebackers provide run support and drop into pass coverage as well. He and his partner, be it Kavell Conner, Andrew Gachkar or Mantei T’eo are responsible for the back out of the backfield and, at times, the tight end. There have been too many times receivers come clean over the middle or the back comes uncovered out in the flat. This has to be cleaned up if our boys are going to make a serious run at the post season tournament. Butler has to come out of hiding.
I had the opportunity to talk briefly with his former mentor, Takeo Spikes on SiriusXM NFL Radio Saturday afternoon and he agreed. Spikes stopped himself short of saying Butler is off to a slow start this year, but did say “he just needs to play his role.” But Spikes added, “When you’re a linebacker, you’re responsible for everything going on around you.”
Butler wears the headset and is captain of the defense. As such, he is responsible for making sure the other 10 guys are in the right position. He’s responsible for making the pre-snap adjustments as the opposing offense audibles, goes in motion or changes the formation.
Spikes went on to say that, in that role, sometimes a player mentally tries to do too much and winds up not making the plays he needs to make. When Butler and Spikes played next to each other, Butler’s role was to make plays with only 10% of the mental “responsibility” for others. Takeo wore the headset when he played for the Bolts. He also said that he’s been waiting for T’eo to show up, and alluded to his absence might be part of the issue as Spikes isn’t working with the top of the depth chart at his side.
Spikes did not say that any of this is definitely the cause of his lack of impact on the defense. He said he doesn’t know what the cause is as he hasn’t spoken with him recently, but offered up possible scenarios. He did say that Butler does need to spend more time worrying about himself and not “worrying about everyone else.”
Right now, it’s safe to say the Butler didn’t do it.