There’s no question about it. After last night’s preseason game against the Green Bay Packers, it’s clear that Malcolm Butler is replacing the departed Darrelle Revis as the Green Bay Packers’ No. 1 cornerback.
Butler played 15 snaps before getting taken out of the game along with the Patriots’ most valuable fixtures on defense: Devin McCourty Jamie Collins, Rob Ninkovich and Patrick Chung. That Butler was included in that elite group indicates that the Patriots hold Butler in as high regard as their most vital defensive players.
In the Packers’ first drive last night, Butler was the reason they didn’t score a touchdown. He was involved on three plays, all of which went the Patriots’ way.
Next: Pats-Packers 1st quarter observations
Butler did allow a completion to Davante Adams, but Adams literally stopped in his tracks immediately catching the ball because Butler stoned him right away. It was a perfectly legal, solid and well-executed hit. The Patriots need someone in the secondary to step-up and throw some shoulders around; the 190-pound Butler is doing that.
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When the Packers were threatening in the red zone, Aaron Rodgers tossed one up for Adams. Butler won the jump-ball drill, breaking-up the pass. I think Butler is the only cornerback on the Patriots’ roster who could have done that.
The following play was 4th & goal, and Butler was in the midst of the pass defense’s sticky coverage in the end zone. He technically didn’t break-up the pass, but if it weren’t for Butler staying on top of his receiver so closely, it would have been a touchdown.
These three plays illustrate that Butler is playing like a true No. 1 corner in live action—that is, live action against the second best quarterback in the league (you know who No. 1 is). Furthermore, the fact that Butler was taken out of the game so early shows that an injury to No. 21 would be very detrimental to the team’s success.
Earlier this month, I noted that Butler was bringing confidence to the beginning of training camp. Confidence is the key to his success; Butler even said so himself after last night’s game.
"You gotta have confidence to play defensive back. That’s not being a butthole or anything like that, bragging or anything, but you gotta have confidence to play defensive back."
After single-handedly putting a fourth ring on Tom Brady’s finger last winter, Butler has a deep well of confidence he’s drawing from as the 2015 season opener approaches.