New England Patriots: Malcolm Butler trending down following Week 2

HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 19: Jaelen Strong
HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 19: Jaelen Strong /

What’s wrong with Malcolm Butler? The New England Patriots cornerback has been anything but super in first two weeks of the season.

With just 49 total snaps played against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, suddenly speculation is mounting that New England Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler may have earned himself a top position in Bill Belichick’s doghouse.

Anyone who follows this team knows direct answer will not be forthcoming. But, considering Butler did not start against the Saints could indicate that there is something in his performance or attitude that the team does not like.


Yes. Considering the type of player Butler has been for the Patriots since working his way onto the team as an unrestricted free agent, work ethic has never been an issue. But, he also hasn’t entered the season coming off a contract dispute with the team. It could be a matter of focus.

I don’t think anyone is buying that his decline in snaps on Sunday was due to matchups against the Saints. Despite cornerback Eric Rowe’s claim that it was just a simple matchup switches the team decided to make, it was an odd change.

Butler has played in over 98 percent of the team’s snaps on defense the last couple of seasons and has always shown aggressiveness on the field.

FOXBORO, MA – DECEMBER 04: Malcolm Butler
FOXBORO, MA – DECEMBER 04: Malcolm Butler /

Matchup problems?

While we all speculate, Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald offered his insight during an appearance on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich on Monday.

"“The Butler one is definitely more interesting, because I don’t think that was a matchup thing,” Howe said when asked about Butler and Alan Branch’s reduced roles. “It could be performance. It could be trying to get Rowe more snaps. Last year there was also about a four-week stretch when Logan Ryan got very little playing time because Belichick was trying to see what he had with his other cornerbacks. …It could be that type of situation.”"

Howe did also note that it could be Belichick’s way of sending a message to Butler, which is the more likely case in my opinion. Given how the team’s defense has struggled with a lack of communication, you’d think a player like Butler would be on the field as much as possible.

Related Story: Will Malcolm Butler’s heart be in it this season?

As far as seeing what else he has goes, the team did get some nice play from cornerback Jonathan Jones.

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If the declined role doesn’t light a match to Malcolm Butler’s fire, a player progressing right behind him should. If anyone knows about working their way onto the first unit, it is the Super Bowl hero himself.

Attitude adjustment?

Could it just be a matter of focus with Malcolm Butler?

Coming into a year in which he is working to earn himself a big contract, his motivation could be off.

Not to say that there is a lack of motivation, just that he may not be playing as loosely as he normally does. That of course could lead to a lack of focus on the field.

As far as his attitude goes, safety and defensive captain Duron Harmon he has seen and expects the same teammate in Malcolm Butler that he has come to know.

"“[He’s] the same guy. A humble guy. A humble guy, who works hard and just want to make the most of his opportunities,” Harmon said last week, via the Providence Journal. “I just think from where he’s come from, even before he got to the NFL, it really humbled him and let him know not to take anything for granted and just fight for everything.”"

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As humble as Malcolm Butler is, the nature of the business that is the NFL can quickly hit a player with a dose of reality. Perhaps that is what’s holding Butler’s performance back.