The New England Patriots, who are currently in their middle of their 2019 training camp, have 90 players on their active roster at the moment. However, only 53 of them will be able to survive the cutdowns on August 31 and ultimately make the team. Over the course of the summer, we will take a look at the players fighting for those spots to find out who has the best chances of helping the Patriots defend their Super Bowl title.
Today, the series continues with one of New England’s defensive linemen.
Name: Adam Butler
Position: Defensive tackle
Jersey number: 70
Opening day age: 25
Size: 6’5, 300 lbs.
2018 review: After already playing a significant role on the Patriots’ defensive line during his 2017 rookie season, Adam Butler took another step forward in 2018: while his defensive playing time decreased marginally, the team trusted the former undrafted free agent with more snaps in the kicking game while furthermore also continuing to work him into the rotation as a run defender as opposed to a pure sub-pass rusher.
All in all, Butler was on the field for 379 of 1,043 defensive snaps during the regular season (36.3%; down from 44.6% in 2017) before seeing a significant spike in action during the playoffs: appearing in all three of the eventual world champions’ postseason games, the Vanderbilt product played 53.7% of New England’s defensive snaps (101 of 188) during the tournament — more than any other defensive tackle on the team’s roster.
Butler earned the late-season spike in playing time primarily because of his steady contributions against the pass: the second-year man registered 14 quarterback disruptions during the regular season — 3.0 sacks, 3 hits, 8 hurries — before adding 4 more in the playoffs (3 hits, 1 hurry). While the numbers do not stand out, they do reflect Butler’s impact as a situational pass rusher from various techniques along the interior line.
As the number three defensive tackle on the roster behind Lawrence Guy and Malcom Brown, Butler appeared in all nineteen of New England’s games and proved his value to the club on a regular basis. His special teams contributions also helped with that, though: he played a combined 174 of 545 snaps in the kicking game (31.9%) and lined up on the punt return units as well as on field goal block and protection teams.
All in all, 2018 was therefore another successful season for Butler — especially considering that it earned him its first Super Bowl ring after an unsuccessful appearance on the game’s biggest stage one year earlier.
2019 preview: Given the current composition of the Patriots’ defensive tackle group following the free agency departure of Malcom Brown as well as his performance over the last two years — let a lone a moderate salary cap hit of only $646,668 — Butler can be considered a lock to make the Patriots’ 2019 roster: as such, he will again provide rotational depth at defensive tackle and serve as an important player on special teams.
While his playing time likely will not change much given the matchup-specific nature of his primary role as a pass rusher, Butler will see consistent action any given week and consistently contribute. Could the team expand his usage by giving him more snaps against the run, for example? Sure, but it appears as if the role he played the last two years suits him best and the Patriots will continue employ him in a way that fits his strengths.