In this series we take a look at 12 players for the San Diego Chargers who are 25 or younger and who could be considered foundational or impact players.
Player: ILB Donald Butler
The skinny: A third-round selection by the Chargers in the 2010 draft, Butler signed a seven-year, $51.8 million deal as the team's top priority this offseason. San Diego's defensive co-captain finished second on the team with 84 tackles, four pass breakups, an interception and half a sack during the regular season. Butler missed time for a second straight season, sitting out four games with a groin injury.
Reason for optimism: At 6-1 and 242 pounds, Butler is fast (4.62-second, 40-yard time at his pro day) and strong (35 reps on the bench press at 225 pounds). The University of Washington product also has a nose for the football and has the potential to develop into the long-term leader for defensive coordinator John Pagano's unit. But Butler has to perform in 2014 and beyond as he did in the postseason, when he led the Chargers in tackles with 18 and also forced a fumble.
Reason for concern: Can Butler finally stay healthy and develop into a playmaker on defense? After he signed the long-term deal, Butler said as much, stating that improving his durability was a priority during the offseason. Butler missed 24 of a possible 64 games in his four-year career with the Chargers, including four games each in the 2012 and 2013 seasons because of a similar groin injury. Butler has not always played at a high level week in, week out. He needs to perform as he did during the 2013 playoffs on a more consistent basis.