Maybe Bill Belichick was on to something with Malcolm Butler.
Butler, the cornerback famously benched by Belichick in the Patriots' Super Bowl 52 loss to the Eagles, has had his problems after signing a five-year, $61 million contract with the Tennessee Titans, who get a visit from the Pats on Sunday.
According to Pro Football Focus, Butler has allowed 39 catches for 618 yards and seven touchdowns this season. All are highs among NFL cornerbacks. Butler has dropped to third on the cornerback depth chart, behind ex-Patriot Logan Ryan and Adoree Jackson.
Butler's struggles were on display for a national audience in Tennessee's Monday night victory over the Cowboys. He was burned for both Dallas TDs, by Amari Cooper and Allen Hurns.
Amari Cooper’s first TD with the Cowboys! 👀pic.twitter.com/jAxyoFSPwV— LeadingNFL (@LeadingNFL) November 6, 2018
Allen Hurns sells the Short route with a perfect 90 degree horizontal cut, violently sticks his foot in the ground to open up his hips and point his toes to the vertical #DallasCowboys pic.twitter.com/5uA81L5R57— Brad Kelly (@BradKelly17) November 6, 2018
Another ex-Patriot, Titans coach Mike Vrabel, talked about Butler on Tuesday.
"When you play man coverage, you have to look at your man. Malcolm knows that and we talk about that, continue to practice it, continue to coach it and try to show it to him," Vrabel told reporters. "When he does that, it's pretty good. It's competitive, he challenges the receivers. When you look back at the quarterback, your man has a tendency to move in another direction."
Butler told the Tennessean last month that he needs "to get back to basics."
"I think sometimes my problem is trying to get the ball, you gamble and do things you shouldn't, just need to get back to the basics. I need to get back to my doggish ways.
"I'm going to get back to being real nasty, man," he said. "I'm going to play my game and do more to help my team out. I am just going to be me."
Patriots linebackers coach, and defacto defensive coordinator, Brian Flores, was asked about Butler on a conference call Tuesday.
It was Flores, on the sideline in Super Bowl 49, who famously yelled "Malcolm, go!" to insert Butler into the game before the then-rookie undrafted free-agent corner's championship-saving interception against the Seahawks.
"It takes me back to a great memory," Flores said when he thinks of those words. "Obviously, I have a good history with Malcolm [Butler]. I think he’s a great player, incredible player. He was a joy to coach, a joy to be around, really looking forward to seeing him this weekend and I wish him all the best always."
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