From now until the start of training camp, we’ll preview each position for the San Diego Chargers. We continue with a breakdown of the linebackers. The Bolts currently have seven inside linebackers on their roster: Donald Butler
, Manti Te'o
, Reggie Walker
, Andrew Gachkar
, Kavell Conner
, Jonas Mouton
and Alvin Scioneaux
; and eight outside linebackers: Dwight Freeney
, Jarret Johnson
, Melvin Ingram
, Jerry Attaochu
, Thomas Keiser
, Tourek Williams
, Cordarro Law
and Colton Underwood
Butler – The Chargers first order of business this offseason was locking up the star linebacker to a multi-year contract to keep the defensive captain in San Diego. It’s easy to see why he was a priority. After missing his rookie year due to a torn Achilles, Butler has been a dominant force at inside linebacker. In three seasons he’s totaled 295 tackles, 22 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and three interceptions. Even though he’s only 25 years old, Butler was elected co-captain of the defense in 2013. Despite missing three games due to injury, he ranked second on the team with 99 tackles.
Te’o – All eyes were on the Notre Dame product as a rookie, and he admittedly had some growing pains early in the year. Still, he improved steadily as the season wore on and was a significant contributor during the team’s playoff run. In 13 games he finished third on the team with 93 tackles, also chipping in with five tackles for loss and leading all linebackers with four passes defensed. Te’o turned in a terrific effort in the playoff clinching victory in Week 17 over the Kansas City Chiefs as he notched a career-high 11 tackles. Te’o has repeatedly said this offseason how year two is completely different from being a rookie, and he looks forward to being even more comfortable in the defense.
Walker – Predominately a special teams ace with the Arizona Cardinals, Walker proved invaluable to Defensive Coordinator John Pagano when injuries felled the linebacker corps. The 6-0, 244-pounder registered 42 tackles, 5.0 tackles for loss, six QB hits and one forced fumble in 2013. He also notched the first three sacks of his career. Walker began the season at inside linebacker, starting two games after Butler and Te’o suffered injuries. When those two returned and the outside linebacker position was ravaged with injuries, he shifted to outside linebacker for the first time in his career where he made four starts. Overall, San Diego went 4-2 in the six games he was thrust in the starting lineup.
Gachkar – Another standout special teams player, Gachkar saw the most defensive snaps of his young career in 2013. The steady 6-3, 240-pounder recorded the first three starts of his career and set a career high with 33 tackles and one forced fumble
Conner- General Manager Tom Telesco knows firsthand what the former Indianapolis Colt linebacker is capable of, which is why the Bolts added Conner relatively early in free agency. Over four seasons, the 6-0, 245-pounder recorded 236 tackles, seven passes defensed, two forced fumbles and one sack. His most productive campaign came in 2011 when he started 15 of 16 games with 104 tackles.
Mouton –2013 was a lost season for the former second round pick after suffering an ACL injury during the first day of training camp. It was the second time he was lost for a season since being drafted, so the former Michigan Wolverine hopes to make an impact in 2014.
Scioneaux – Highly productive Wofford star tallied 75 tackles, 9.0 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks in 2013.
Freeney – One of the best pure pass rushers to ever play the game, Freeney returns after missing the majority of last season to a torn quad suffered in Week 4. Between his time with the Colts and Bolts, he’s totaled 379 tackles, 44 forced fumbles, 14 passes defensed and three interceptions. The former Defensive Player of the Year hopes to show the same form that has earned him seven Pro Bowl selections, four All-Pro honors and a selection to the NFL’s All-Decade Team for the 2000s.
Johnson – A true leader in every sense of the word, Johnson is a tried and true veteran that commands respect. The 12-year veteran remains excellent at setting the edge against the run, and showed he still can get after the passer with 3.0 sacks a year ago. Like many other linebackers last season, Johnson missed extended time due to injury, but still managed to net 33 tackles.
Ingram – The effervescent Ingram shocked the world, returning from a torn ACL suffered during OTA’s to appear in four games and two postseason contests. The team won five straight after his return to the lineup, and he made his presence felt in the Wild Card win over the Bengals when he had a game-sealing interception. Now more than a full year removed from injury, Ingram says he is feeling better than ever.
Attaochu – Telesco swung a trade to move up in the second round to grab the pass rusher he desired in Attaochu. The 6-3, 252-pounder steadily improved each season at Georgia Tech. He dominated the competition as a senior, recording 45 tackles, 16 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks. Overall, Attaochu set the Yellow Jacket record with 31.5 career sacks, which also ranks fifth in ACC history. The rookie is on record saying he looks forward to learning from the battle tested vets on the Chargers roster.
Keiser – The 6-4, 260-pound former Stanford star was promoted from the practice squad to the active roster after Freeney’s injury and made an immediate impact. He finished the season with 4.5 sacks, one shy of Corey Liuget’s team-high, 21 tackles and one key interception against the Denver Broncos.
Williams – The teams sixth-round draft choice in 2013 had a memorable first sack, forcing a fumble by taking down Peyton Manning from behind. He also recorded 10 tackles in limited playing time as he acclimated himself to the NFL.
Law - A highly coveted commodity after tearing up the CFL, Law joins the Chargers looking to mimic his success north of the border. He dominated with the Calgary Stampeders in 2013, recording 44 tackles and an impressive 14.0 sacks.
Underwood – Illinois State linebacker ranks third in school history with 44 tackles for loss and fourth with 21.5 sacks.