NEPD Staff Writer: Mike Loyko
Today Darius Butler became the next in the line of recently drafted Patriot cornerbacks to be released. Here is why.
Drafted in the 2nd round with pick 41st overall pick in the 2009 NFL draft, Darius Butler came into the Patriots organization with high expectations. During Butler’s first season with the Patriots he showed off his potential by intercepting 3 passes including one he returned for a touchdown in the regular season finale against the Texans. Even though he would struggle at times it seemed the Patriots had finally found a quality corner to be part of the rebuilt secondary.
Entering his second season in the organization expectations were high based on his rookie year. The Patriots drafted Devin McCourty in the 1st round in 2010 and had re-signed Leigh Bodden, so Butler figured to play one of the top 3 CB spots. When Leigh Bodden was lost for the season due to injury in the preseason, Butler was elevated to starter opposite Devin McCourty.
In retrospect it looks like he just wasn’t ready for that challenge. Game 1 of last season he was matched up against Chad Ochocinco for most of the game. Chad went on to have his best game of the year registering 12 catches for 159 yards and a TD which he beat Butler for.
The turning point with Darius Butler appeared to be last season, week 2 against the Jets. He was constantly picked on by Mark Sanchez, including a touchdown pass where Braylon Edwards famously did the “Dougie” in Butler’s face. After that game Butler was passed on the depth chart by Kyle Arrington and Butler’s confidence and “game” couldn’t be regained. Game after game it appeared that Butler would be a step slow in coverage. Often getting beat by receivers much less athletic than him.
It was maddening for Patriot fans because he had been much better during his rookie year, and looked nothing like that player in year 2. Based on Pro Football Focus’s number’s opposing QB’s had a rating of 103.8 when throwing at Butler and averaged over 12 yards per completion. When you add in the fact that the Patriots led the league in interceptions last year and Butler didn’t record a single one, it really magnifies how bad a season he had.
Entering camp this season it appeared Butler stood on shaky ground. Devin McCourty is coming off a Pro Bowl rookie season, Leigh Bodden returns from injury and Bill Belichick used the 33rd overall pick to draft another CB Ras-I Dowling. Even though he was on the bubble I figured that as long as he didn’t play awful during camp he would be given one more season to show what he can do.
Watching the 4 preseason games and camp closely it had appeared to be more of the same for Butler. He logged a lot of minutes in the preseason and while he once again was thrown at a lot and gave up more completions that I thought he should have he wasn’t awful. While Butler was able to survive the initial cut, rumors were circulating that the Patriots were trying to trade him. Unable to trade him the Patriots cut ties today. (UPDATE: The Panthers claimed Darius Butler off of waivers)
It’s rare for such a high second round pick to be cut after just 2 seasons into his career. Butler will go down with Terrence Wheatley and Jonathan Wilhite as cornerbacks who were recently drafted by the Patriots that just flat out didn’t pan out. The release of Butler leaves the Patriots with 5 corners on the roster—Devin McCourty, Leigh Bodden, rookie Ras-I Dowling, Kyle Arrington and new comer Antwaun Molden.