Despite playing in different divisions, New England Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler and Denver Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders went against each other four times over the last three seasons. The battles generally were back-and-forth contests, with both team winning twice and the two players squaring off fiercely each time – and Sanders apparently appreciates his battles with the Pro Bowler.
In a recent story published in the Players Tribune, the Broncos star named Butler as one of the five toughest cornerbacks he has ever played against. “He’s always doing those extra little things to make you uncomfortable,” Sanders writes in the story, comparing Butler to Denver's Chris Harris Jr. “Jamming you as hard as he possibly can at the line of scrimmage, or giving the ball an extra punch just when you think you got it secured.”
“He’s a pit bull,” Sanders notes. “He’s tenacious. He never gives up.” Butler has been known for scrappiness ever since bursting onto the scene late in his 2014 rookie campaign. Even before making the game-saving interception in Super Bowl XLIX, the undrafted pickup showed an ability to shadow receivers tightly – an ability that has allowed Butler to grow into a starting cornerback in New England's defense.
“He’s also the perfect cornerback for the kind of defense they like to run in New England,” Sanders continues before adding that Butler's catch-up speed is one of his greatest strengths as it allows him to play his own style of defense: Risky but with a sound technique and discipline. “You gotta have some guts to play that brand of cornerback. And I don’t think anybody in the league does it better right now than Malcolm.”
As things stand right now, 2018 is not scheduled to feature a battle between Butler and Sanders. But whenever the next one comes, it will likely be a high-quality matchup once again.