Malcolm Butler is best recognized for his game-winning interception in Super Bowl XLIX, but the New England Patriots cornerback has developed into more than a one-play wonder.
ESPN’s Mike Reiss notes New York Jets head coach Todd Bowles said Butler is “probably one of the best in the league” at his position. Bowles added of Butler:
“He studies the game. He’s not just a man corner, he’s a zone corner too. He’s feisty. He has very good technique, which is rare. He has great hand-eye coordination, he reads the ball, and he accepts all challenges and works at it. I enjoy watching him play.”
Butler doesn’t always single-cover the opponent’s best receiver, but the 25-year-old has regularly excelled in the game plan.
For example, the Patriots didn’t bother placing Butler on Houston Texans wideout DeAndre Hopkins. Instead, New England doubled Hopkins by using Logan Ryan and shading a safety over the top. That plan worked because the defense could trust Butler to lock up the other side.
Overall in 2015, per ProFootballFocus (subscription required), Butler has allowed 54 receptions on 96 targets for 853 yards and six touchdowns, tallying two interceptions and 13 pass breakups.
Butler recently received his first Pro Bowl nod, at least solidifying his place as one of the league’s most respected cornerbacks.
Considering Josh Norman’s rise from game-day inactive to elite this year, calling Butler a top-tier player at the position is perfectly reasonable despite 2015 only behind his second NFL season.