Pro Football Focus shared their rankings on New England Patriots CB Malcolm Butler when Butler reported to the Patriots offseason workouts. Butler ranked 7th in PFF’s 2016 cornerback rankings, an improvement from his 12th place finish in 2015.
Butler allowed a passer rating of just 78.2 on passes in his direction, which ranked 19th in the NFL and behind new teammate CB Stephon Gilmore, who allowed a mere 70.6 passer rating (11th).
PFF noted that Gilmore’s 70.6 passer rating against was the best in the AFC East, slightly ahead of Miami Dolphins CB Byron Maxwell at 71.6. Butler ranks third at 78.2, with former Buffalo Bills slot Nickell Robey-Coleman now in Los Angeles. The Patriots duo of Butler and Gilmore should be one of the best in the entire league.
But if there’s one weakness in the secondary it comes in the slot where the Patriots now have a gaping hole.
CB Logan Ryan led the Patriots with 309 snaps in the slot last year and he signed a $10 million per season deal with the Tennessee Titans. SS Patrick Chung ranked second on the team with 147 slot snaps and Butler ranked third on the team with a mere 82 snaps in the slot, most against Dolphins WR Jarvis Landry.
It’s pretty clear that the Patriots need to find someone capable of replacing Ryan.
Butler is an option to move inside, especially with CB Eric Rowe capable of defending the sideline against three-receiver sets, but Butler “allowed a 128.5 passer rating” when in the slot over the past two years, which is less than ideal- and puts his 78.2 overall passer rating against into perspective.
While 2016 second round CB Cyrus Jones is an obvious option, PFF suggests a dark horse candidate in CB Justin Coleman. Coleman played the fourth-most snaps in the slot for the Patriots in 2016 and allowed a mere 39.6 passer rating against. Could Coleman be the answer?
Fortunately for New England, they only have one major problem and a bunch of potential solutions. Butler, Chung, Jones, and Coleman will have all summer to state their case.