After igniting training camp and being a hot name during the offseason, Malcolm Butler’s play has been a disappointment to himself and to fans of the team.
High expectations were set early on as Butler seemed to generate a pick or big play every other practice - or sometimes would go on a streak of flashing his potential play-making abilities.
Now, Butler - who was brought in to solidify the corner spot - has become a liability in pass coverage. A lot is due to his over-aggressive style. HC Mike Vrabel pointed to technique as being a contributing factor to Butler’s season struggles.
Truthfully, It’s a combination of both.
But there is one additional factor that is glossed over - Butler’s inability to overcome early big plays where the fault is his.
Teams who study tape on Butler realize that in order to get the corner off his game, he must be targeted frequently and early on. If a receiver can get a big play or move the chains against Butler one-on-one, his confidence teeters.
Moreover, Butler will attempt to make up for giving up a play by looking to make a bigger play defensively. He becomes reactive rather than proactive.
Instead of sticking to his technique - which coaches gushed over during the offseason - he tries to rely on physical talents and gut-instinct to put him in position to make a play.
This has backfired several times and the result is points on the scoreboard for the other team.
This is a good sign.
Exposing the Wound
Butler will continue to be targeted by opposing quarterbacks until he proves he can become a feared force in the secondary.
Until he corrects it, he can expect teams to throw the ball in his direction.
For Butler, this could be a good thing. If he uses a team/quarterback not respecting his abilities as fuel to correct his technique, he could steer his season back in the right direction one play at a time.
The Titans need Butler to provide coverage consistency. If the issue truly is his technique needing to be refined, then DB Coach Kerry Coombs needs to get to work in figuring out what needs to be changed, tweaked and adjusted.
If Butler improves his technique but still struggles in coverage, the decision to prioritize the former Patriot in free agency instead of addressing other roster holes will continue to build steam.