There is no denying that Donald Butler was missing in action for the Miami game and a good portion of this season. In fact, he has looked completely lost at times, and well detached to say the least. Fellow senior writer, Mike Pisciotta, has already announced an Amber Alert, and quite frankly I’m surprised there hasn’t been a reward offered for his return; maybe even put his picture on a milk carton. However, something happened last Sunday against the Raiders. There was a resurgence from Butler that most fans haven’t seen for a long time.
Sure, the bye week has helped almost all Charger players rest and recover from a brutal first half of the season, but that wasn’t what contributed to Butler’s success. Defensive coordinator, John Pagano, was forced to make well needed adjustments; from that, Butler flourished. Sunday, Butler had three tackles, one pass defended and a fumble recovery. Who really expected that to happen? You might be asking, “What was different that allowed Donald Butler to excel rather than decline?” Well, here it goes; limited snaps.
Donald Butler was limited to the base defense and was primarily used as a run defender rather than a pass defender. Yes, it took this long for the coaching staff to finally make the switch, but it worked. According to Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune, Butler only played 30 snaps out of 60. According to the 3-4 defensive scheme that San Diego uses, it was pure genius. In case you didn’t know what a base defense is, it’s practically the default defense and other variations are added on from there.
There are three linemen and four linebackers in a 3-4 defensive formation. The fourth rusher can be a linebacker, but to confuse the opposing quarterback the safety is often used as the pass rusher in the blitz play. Yet, to give more confusion, the fourth potential rusher can be any of the seven defenders. I will give you a good guess as to who filled in as the pass rusher; he wears No. 54 and causes complete havoc when playing. Melvin Ingram was finally back on the field after suffering a hip injury after week 2 against the Seattle Seahawks.
After the big and quite inflated contract Butler received this offseason, one would think that limited snaps is not exactly what everyone was anticipating for an expected three-down linebacker; including the Chargers organization. Yet, it’s obvious that he does well in specific scenarios and with other great linebackers around him. Adding Jeremiah Attaochu, Manti Te’o, and of course Melvin Ingram you could instantly see how much better Butler played. It’s noticeable that the amount of snaps is tiring him and causing fatigue; therefore missing tackles and blowing coverage. Either way you cut it, with the return of his other linebackers, Butler has reemerged for the better.
The Chargers face off against the St. Louis Rams this Sunday at Qualcomm Stadium and it won’t be an easy game. Just last week they defeated the Denver Broncos with an aggressive and disruptive defense. On a positive note, the Rams are only 2-3 on the road this season. Coming off one of the best defensive games played this year, Butler and company will look to continue their success by limiting third-down conversions and forcing turnovers. Don’t be surprised if you see Butler in the same rotation and limited snaps like last Sunday; seemingly it’s a good look for him.