With tonight’s preseason game versus the Saints looming, I thought it would be good to take a look at one of the young, key defensive players, Malcolm Butler. Butler is most known for, ok he’s pretty much only known for, his spectacular, game winning Super Bowl interception against Seattle.
This season, however, the Patriots are going to need him to be much more than just a one hit wonder. Many analysis have Butler projected as being the number one corner on the depth chart, and tonight is a night where he can demonstrate his worth.
All week, the Saints and Patriots engaged in joint practices in West Virginia. While early in the week the Patriots as a team were able to dominate the Saints in almost every facet of the game, Butler struggled.
For the majority of the early practices, Butler was matched up and the speedy Brandin Cooks. Cooks was able to have his way against Butler, as he used his speed and agility to break free from the young corner. It was concerning to see Butler struggle, since the rest of team was essentially able to cruise along and impose their will versus the Saints.
Butler, however, did not let his early woes define his week of camp. The following day he was matched up on the 6’4”, Marques Colston. On paper it appeared to be a difficult ask for Butler, who is 5 inches shorter than his opponent, but he battled through and had an excellent day of practice.
Brees only targeted Colston once, and Colston was limited to zero catches. The one pass that was thrown Colston’s way was an end zone fade. Despite Butler’s vertical limitation compared to Coloston, Butler was able to track the ball and time his jump perfectly, knocking the pass away from the leaping Colston.
Butler impressed with his ability to shake off the previous bad day of practice, and come out the next focused and sharp. Many Saints praised Butler on this ability, including the man Butler had covered before, Brandin Cooks. Cooks told reporters that the Super Bowl pick would not define Butler and that going against him, “opened up my eyes even more to see how good of a player he is. That play [the Uper Bowl interception] didn’t define him. He’s actually going to be a great player.”
Throughout this training camp, Butler has proved that he is not just that interception, he is much, much more. It seems as though everyone has commented on how well Butler has played, and with a secondary that is extremely depleted, this is great news to hear.
This teams needs Butler to be a legitimate number one corner, or else we could end up seeing some replays of the circa. 2009 Patriots, and I frankly don’t think my blood pressure can take that.
I personally think that Butler can get the job done. He is a smart, young, athletic player who has fantastic coaches to help him grow along the way. While most people only remember the one interception that Butler made against Seattle, it should not forgotten that he played an exceptional game.
He knocked away numerous passes including one, when Seattle had a 10 point lead in the third, against Jermaine Kearse. Russell Wilson hummed a deep ball down the sideline, and Butler was able to adjust and prevent Kearse from matching the catch. Seattle was forced to punt, and the rest is history. Had Seattle converted that play, we would have had another Super Bowl heartbreak, and a very different looking offseason.
However the main take away from that Super Bowl game was not the final play from Butler, but his entire performance. He proved to not only New England, but to himself, that he could step up and deliver in big game situations. If Butler was able to have the success that he did against the Seahawks in the Super Bowl, then the rest of his career will be a piece of cake, or at least I hope it will be.
While Butler’s career has been very brief, he has still managed to impress. In the big games, and in practice. If he continues to move along down this apparent trend the there is only good things to come in his future. I expect big things form Malcolm at the corner back position this year, and while right now he may not be as good as Revis, at least his mom will be allowed into the next ring ceremony.
By Jake Cianci