Quentin Jammer. Shaun Phillips. Takeo Spikes. The Chargers 9th ranked defense in 2012 was led by these dedicated veterans. Flash forward to present day, Jammer and Phillips have signed with divisional-rival Denver Broncos, and Spikes is a free agent, waiting for a team to call for his services. The youth movement began this off-season and players like Eric Weddle, Cory Liuget, and Donald Butler will be tasked with being the calming voice for the new look, Chargers 3-4 hybrid defense. Weddle has already shown his leadership skills through his steady play in the secondary. As for Butler, he’s had the privilege of playing directly next to a ferocious player and a strong leader in Spikes. Butler was a selected in the 2nd round in the 2010 draft. His rookie year was derailed before it began, as he suffered a season-ending achilles injury in training camp. In the last two years, Butler has been extremely impressive, racking up 173 tackles (128 solo), 5 sacks, 2 interceptions, and 4 fumble recoveries. Butler is indeed a playmaker, as he has returned both an interception and a fumble for scores.
Butler’s physical presence and play on the field have carried over to him being the leader for this defense. With the buzz-generating selection of linebacker Mani Te’o in this past draft, Butler will be called upon to quickly elevate the rookie to game speed. In a recent interview with the San Diego Union-Tribune, Butler explained the dynamics and possibility of the 2013 second-round selection being penciled in as the starter next to him. “My thing is I just want to see him come here and work,” Butler explained regarding Te’o. “A lot of people are talking about the future, and as bright as the future may seem or sound, he has to come in and prove himself before anything. That’s what I’m looking forward to. I want someone coming in ready and willing to work and learn and be a part of this defense.”
Butler was never handed the starting job, he earned the right to play on Sundays due to his blood and sweat effort he gave during the week. He won’t accept anything less from any of his teammates, especially for the player lining up directly next to him. “(Te’o) has to come in and prove himself as a starter,” explained Butler. “Hopefully we can create something that will carry us for the next four, five, six years.”
The torch has been passed, and it’s Butler’s job to make sure it burns bright.