For all of the defensive “struggles” that the Patriots have gone through in 2016, one defender has continued to improve with each passing week: CB Malcolm Butler.
Butler has been asked to shadow top receivers, and to cover number two options on an island, and to drop back into zone, and he’s done a very good job on a weekly basis. In fact, he’s done well enough for Pro Football Focus (PFF) to rank him as the #2 cornerback thus far in 2016.
“Outside of [Broncos CB Aqib Talib], there really hasn’t been a corner that has been consistently ‘shutdown,’ but Malcolm Butler has had a fine season, outside of a couple of lapses,” PFF analyst Sam Monson writes. “Against Miami back in Week 2, he surrendered 157 receiving yards, and he coughed up another 94 against Pittsburgh; beyond those games, he has given up 35 yards or fewer on six of his eight outings, and over the entire season, has allowed just 52.9 percent of passes into his coverage to be caught, despite occasionally being asked to track elite receivers.”
Butler’s consistency has been a breath of fresh air in the middle of a defensive storm and the team will continue to rely on his performance for the rest of the season.
Butler is a restricted free agent at the end of the season and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Patriots offer the cornerback a top dollar deal that aligns with his top of the market performance.