Chargers fans everywhere breathed a sigh of relief as reports came in that Donald Butler and the Chargers have agreed to a deal to keep him in San Diego. Butler also notified the world via Twitter. Eric D. Williams of ESPN reports the deal. So now that’s over with, Chargers fans can step back and admire the solid inside linebacker tandem they have in Donald Butler and Manti Te’o. This should be one of the more solid inside linebacking pairs in the NFL, if they both stay healthy. Both Te’o and Butler struggled with injuries in 2013.
There are many things to like about Butler and Te’o. Both are almost exactly the same in stature (Te’o is 6-1, 241 pounds and Butler 6-1 242 pounds). After missing the first 3 games, Manti Te’o racked up 61 tackles in 13 regular season games, plus another 10 in the 2 playoff games. The numbers tell us that Te’o improved consistently as the year progressed. In his last 3 games (vs. KC, CIN and DEN), he had 20 tackles total, an average of almost 7 tackles per game. Sometimes people forget that Te’o was invited to New York as a Heisman finalist. People think he is overrated, but Heisman voters aren’t stupid, he was there for a reason. This is a solid player the Chargers can count on for years to come.
Butler had 84 tackles in 2013, 2nd only to Eric Weddle. And that was with missing 3 games, himself. Butler also had 18 tackles in the playoffs, leading the team. He had 2 INTs, including one in Denver in the AFC Divisional Game. His 102 tackles in 15 games, including playoffs is an average of 6.8 tackles per game. That’s around the same average as Te’o’s last 3 games.
These two can play ball. They have both proved it. Manti Te’o went a little under appreciated down the final stretch of the season. If the Chargers can acquire a meaty nose tackle via the draft or free agency, this defense will be dramatically better against the run than it was in 2013. Here’s hoping Te’o and Butler can play more than 13 games in 2014, because if they do, they will be fun to watch.