Tag Archives: Malcolm Butler

New England Patriots: Confidence Is Soaring As The Season Winds Down

2015 Ended Poorly

As the 2015 season wound down, Bill Belichick made some decisions that, looking back, turned out to be questionable (I know, that is heresy in New England, but look at the results).  After winning their first eleven games the Patriots started to wilt. With a bunch of walking wounded, a beat up Tom Brady and the play-offs with home field in game-one guaranteed, he rested some key players and went to a non-existent running game against the J-E-Ts and Dolphins. For the 1st time in may years the Patriots seemed to be playing not-to-lose. 

11-29-brady-hit-high-after-releasing-the-ball-no-penalty-on-this-play
2015 Brady got beat up in Denver

Well, as we all know (so why am I reminding you????) the Pats lost both those games and went into the play-offs having lost four of their last six games. They never completely recovered from those decisions. After winning a home play-off game against the Chiefs (27-20) they traveled to Denver and lost to the ultimate Super Bowl Champion Broncos (20-18) in the Conference Championship game.

How Different Is 2016?

Now, with two games remaining in the 2016 regular season, New England faces the same two teams, NY J-E-T-S and Miami, in a similar situation. The J-E-T-S are out of the race, but always give the Patriots a good fight…and the Dolphins continue to fight for a play-off spot.

So…why does it feel so different?  Here are 5 reasons:

  1. The 2016 Patriots are now playing their best football of the season, unlike 2015, when they were unsure if the defense or offense could hold up
  2. Tom Brady won’t be going into these games already bruised & battered thanks to Dante Scarnecchia and a rejuvenated OL (yeah, I know he’s back to limited practice & on the injury list…but he’s still in better shape than last year) 
  3. The running game is at it’s peak, with LeGarrette Blount rushing for 15 TDs and over 1,000 yards…a healthy Dion Lewis..a solid #3 with James White and the impressive blocking of James Develin. Last year neither Blount nor Lewis were playing due to injuries
  4. The defense is #1 in points against in the NFL. I’ll say that again, the defense is #1 in points against in the NFL
  5. Bill Belichick seems completely confident in all aspects of the Pats game. He’s willing to trust his defense (say what?), offense or special teams to make the crucial play at the end of the game. That’s something that has been missing for many years

Same Decision = Different Results

So, that said, what if Belichick makes the same decisions this year that he did in 2015? If he does, the results should be completely different. This team is tough and in no way resembles the 2015 version of the New England Patriots.

malcolm-mitchell-vs-sf
Mitchell vs 49ers courtesy of Boston Herald.com

They don’t have Rob Gronkowski or Danny Amendola and both are big losses. However, they do have a bruiser in Blount, a quick Lewis plus new heroes in Chris Hogan (highest yards-per-catch in the NFL) and the speed of rookie WR Malcolm Mitchell. Add in tough TE Martellis Bennett and, oh yeah, a well rested Tom Brady!

With a defense that is starting to click without Chandler Jones or Jamie Collins…but is lead by Trey Flowers, always reliable Rob Ninkovich, Chris Long and, suddenly rejuvenated Jabaal Sheard, Malcolm Butler, Devin McCourty, Dont’a Hightower and a host of others…they are a formidable bunch.

NOTES:

  • Congratulations to Brady, Slater, Hightower & McCourty on their selection to the 2016 NFL Pro-Bowl. Hopefully none will be able to play as they prepare for the Super Bowl
  • Condolences to Malcolm Butler, Blount and Marcus Cannon (can’t believe I’m saying this), who all deserved a shot too
  • The NFL is always fair & objective…just look at their recent “punishment” to the Giants & their Head Coach for being caught cheating! #Integrity
  • This has been an outstanding year for Patriot Coaches Belichick, Josh McDaniels, Matt Patricia and Scarnecchia
  • Tom Brady is being penalized again! Many are saying he doesn’t deserve the MVP because he has played 4 fewer games than the others in the running. King Goodell strikes again
  • The Patriots are the only team in the NFL who have not lost a road game this year. Despite that, the advantage of playing in Foxborough in the playoffs is huge.

 

Dante Scarnecchia

 

Hard to believe, but, 14 games down (12-2) with just 2 more before the real season begins. This season has flown by.

Follow me on Twitter @SnowdonBob

 

New England Patriots: Belichick’s Dilemma

Anyone who believes Bill Belichick, Head Coach of the New England Patriots,  doesn’t have tough decisions to make every week of the season is living in fantasy land. Despite having the best record in the NFL (OK, I know, Dallas is there too), this year has been a season of turmoil.

Whether it is injuries, suspensions (U-Know-Who), trades, a lackadaisical defense, benching players or any one of numerous week-to-week issues, this has been a season of distractions…something the arguably best coach in the NFL doesn’t like.

Cyrus Jones Needs To Step Up
Cyrus Jones Needs To Step Up

…And now, heading to Denver in game 14,  Belichick has another real dilemma. No, it’s not simply how to win a big game in the Mile High (literally) City, but is what to do with 2016’s 2nd round draft pick (60th over-all) Cyrus Jones.

The rookie from Alabama has been given multiple chances to get over the rookie jitters, but instead of getting better he continues on a downward curve with a multitude of bad decisions and turnovers. As Chris Mason noted in his Tuesday Boston Herald column he fumbled for the fifth time in Monday night’s win against the Ravens , yet his teammates continue to support him.

NCAA Football: Charleston Southern at Alabama
Nov 21, 2015; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Charleston Southern Buccaneers quarterback Kyle Copeland (19) tries to tackle Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Cyrus Jones (5) after he intercepted a pitch at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Jones’ college resume was great:

  1. The young man (23) returned 42 punts for 530 yards
  2. Led the nation with four touchdowns, the most in a single season in Alabama’s history
  3. His 530 return yards rank second all-time in Alabama single-season history
  4. Earned All-SEC honors as a defensive back

With his college resume it was a reasonable expectation Jones could step right in as a punt returner,  easing the burden on Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola, but instead:

  • Fans are SCREAMING for the Patriots to give up on him and just let him go
  • Opponents want New England to continue to keep him returning kicks

Well, there is no chance the Pats will just let him go. Be real, this was a 2nd rounder, the Patriots’ 1st pick in 2016. His upside is still high, while his confidence is at an all-time low. Things couldn’t get much worse for the rookie (please!) and, surprisingly, Belichick sounds like he will stick with him through thick and thin.

“We have confidence in all of our players,” Belichick told reporters when asked about the rookie. “Of course once the ball hits the ground, we don’t want to be near the ball and have that hit us,” Belichick said. “That goes for everybody. . . .”

Notes:

  • With the injuries to Defensive Backs Malcom Butler and Eric Rowe,  Jones snaps have grown. Despite being burned against the Ravens, look for that to continue in Denver
  • Surprisingly, the Patriots picked up WR Michael Floyd on waivers. He was released by Arizona after getting a DUI when found passed out with the motor running in his car at 2AM Monday. Hmmmmm! Strange move. In order to make room the Pats reportedly released recently signed Griff Whalen
  • Michael Reiss has reported that the Patriots brought in Devin Hester for a look see. The former pro-bowler is long past his prime and he has actually been worse than Jones this year, if that is possible!

Follow me on twitter @snowdonbob

Patriots Take Advantage Of Steelers Mistakes And Get The Victory

The 2015 National Football League regular season has finally begun, and it began Thursday night when the New England Patriots defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 28-21. The game started out with the two teams struggling to score. On the first series of the game, Pittsburgh took the ball down the field but were stopped inside the thirty-yard line. Steelers kicker Josh Scobee missed his first of two field goals on the night, the first being a forty-four yard attempt.

The unfortunate part of the series for the Patriots was that second-year defensive lineman Dominique Easley went down with a hip injury and did not return to the game. It would be tough for the team to lose him for a significant period of time, seeing how well the Steelers ran the ball on the Patriots Thursday night.

On offense, the Patriots and Tom Brady moved the ball up and down the field with ease all night long. Tom Brady finished 25 of 32, for 288 yards, and four touchdown passes. He was sharp as he has ever been, and with the victory he surpassed Brett Favre as the winning quarterback with one single franchise with 161 wins. All the off field noise and distractions did not seem to bother him one bit.

The real story of the night offensively for the New England Patriots was the play of Rob Gronkowski. He is without a doubt the most dominating offensive weapon in the game. He finished the game with five receptions, for 94 yards, and three touchdowns. Gronkowski just makes it so easy for Tom Brady, all he needs to do is put the ball high in the air in the end zone. In addition, the Patriots received a contribution from another tight end, Scott Chandler who had a three-yard touchdown reception.

Patriots.com
Patriots.com

The Patriots received big time offensive contributions as well from Julian Edelman, and the surprise player of training camp Dion Lewis. Lewis finished with 69 yards on 15 carries. He did however fumble the ball inside the five yard line at a key moment in the fourth quarter. Luckily it was recovered by Rob Gronkowski and the Patriots scored a few plays later.

Even though Julian Edelman did not play at all in the preseason, and was sidelined for much of camp with an ankle injury, he did not show any rust on Thursday night. Edelman brought in 11 catches, for 97 yards. He was as always, the spark plug in the Patriots offense catching short passes and consistently getting yards after the catch. Fans need to pray that he stays heathy, because it will be nearly impossible to replace that production.

The Patriots defense started out fast and with energy, but tailed off greatly as the night went on. The front seven was decent and got to the quarterback when they needed to. Nevertheless, DeAngelo Williams ran for 127 yards, mostly right through the middle of the defense. In addition, the secondary was as expected, inconsistent.

Malcolm Butler was manned up for the vast majority of the game against Antonio Brown, who is an absolute freak. That is no excuse for poor play from Butler, he should be expected to take on top tier receivers as the teams number one corner. He did fight hard against Brown and had a few flashes, but for the most part he just seemed out matched and out talented.

Patriots.com
Patriots.com

Antonio Brown finished with nine catches on eleven targets, for 133 yards, and a touchdown. The secondary certainly will be a work in progress, and one main takeaway from the week one victory is that they did not give up many points and made stops when they had to.

In conclusion, the Patriots made a statement win on Thursday night while putting all the distractions from outside behind them and focusing on, “Doing their Job.” Tom Brady was phenomenal, and the offense with two rookie lineman, looked like the best in the league. The defense is for sure a work in progress but nothing is perfect in week one.

Now the team has a nice break over the weekend, and they will need it because Ralph Wilson Stadium will be raucous next Sunday when the Patriots travel to take on Rex Ryan and the new look Buffalo Bills. You can almost bet on that game being much tougher than Thursday nights game. Winning the first game is nice, now its on to Buffalo.

New England Patriots, Malcolm Butler: Star In The Making

At this time last year Malcolm Butler was an undrafted rookie free agent fighting to make a roster spot. This year he’s the teams number one cornerback going in to the 2015 season, and by the looks of things Butler looks to be the real deal and that he could be a starting number one cornerback in the NFL.

patriots.com
patriots.com

Everyone in the world knows about his Super Bowl winning interception, but that wasn’t Butler’s only good play he made during the season. Butler saw limited action throughout the year playing behind Revis, Browner and Arrington, who are now all playing for different teams. Butler isn’t getting the job because of the departure of the other corners, he’s getting it because he’s deserved it. He’s paid his dues playing and learning behind elite company, now he gets to exhibit his skills as a number 1 corner.  This isn’t going to say that Butler is going to be an elite cornerback like a Darrelle Revis or Richard Sherman, those types of guys are once in a generation type players but Butler is going to be a very good corner in the NFL. Is it possible he could work himself into being an elite corner in the NFL? Sure, but for now its premature to say.

Julian Edelman vs. Malcolm Butler.
Julian Edelman vs. Malcolm Butler.

Butler has shown his skills in both man and zone coverage and has continued to work on getting better from last year to this year and wants to be the best player he can be. He has shown good ball skills of course with his interception in the Super Bowl and as well as making great plays so far in training camp. Then one of the biggest things he has is the confidence and the swagger of a great corner. He was on top of the world after the Super Bowl by making maybe the best play in the history of the NFL, he’s shown that he wants to cover the best by covering Edelman and Gronkowski in practice and covering them well, covering Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb against the Packers in week one of the preseason and not allowing any catches, covering Marques Colston and Brandin Cooks in week two of the preseason against the Saints. He showed his speed and hit power by leveling Brandin Cooks on a wide receiver end around by following him and making the big hit after Cooks crossed the line of scrimmage. Cooks has 4.3 speed and is one of the fastest guys in the NFL and tracking him down is no easy task. After the play Butler got up got into Cooks face a little bit and just stood there with confidence and swagger.

via bostonherald.com
via bostonherald.com

He’s drawn praise from coaches and players for his work ethic, ability and his determination to get better and wanting to be a great player. He struggled the first day of doing practices this week against the Saints, he came back the next day and had a very good day of practice and then played well in the preseason game against New Orleans. He knows what it takes and wants to be the best and keep improving, if he struggles he’s going to do something about it and change it and showed the ability to bounce back from a bad performance. Butler is going to be the starting cornerback for the Patriots this season and he’s going to do a great job at it. With the more experience he gets the better he will get and maybe get into that Sherman and Revis category in a few years. For now he’s going to be the Patriots number one corner and hopefully do his job of stopping the opposing offenses number one threat. I wrote about Butler last summer going into the season and how well he performed in camp and had confidence in him being a contributor on defense, now I’m writing about Butler with him being “the guy” in the secondary and I still have all the confidence in him. Malcolm Butler is going to be a great player for the Patriots and can’t wait to see him in the regular season lined up against some of the best in the league and see how he performs.

Patriots Training Camp Battles: Malcolm Butler Vs. Logan Ryan For Number One Cornerback

Images from profootballspot.com and sportsspyder.com
Images from profootballspot.com and sportsspyder.com

For all of Patriots Nation right now, the cornerback position on their team is a touchy and sensitive subject. With the departures of Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner, Kyle Arrington, and Alfonzo Dennard this past offseason, Bill Belichick is left with veteran cast-offs and unproven young players to work with this summer.

It is a scary thought for all fans that support the red, blue, and silver with cornerback arguably being the second most important position in the game.  With the Patriots having so little experience in their defense with their corners, players such as Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan who have experience will be essential pieces in the secondary rebuild process. The only question now will be which player will take over the number one cornerback spot, Butler or Ryan?

Before February 1st, 2015 the casual fan had never heard of the name Malcolm Butler. Now he is making every social appearance he can to soak up his fifteen minutes of fame after his Super Bowl heroics. Nevertheless, Super Bowl XLIX is in the past and it is time to focus on how the Patriots can repeat, and Butler could be a key piece.

During the 2014 regular season, Malcolm Butler showed that he belongs in the National Football League. He was the surprise of training camp, and Bill Belichick was not afraid to put him in key veteran like situations.

For example, in week nine he spent significant time covering both Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders of the Denver Broncos. Furthermore, he matched up against Mike Wallace in both contests against Miami. Every time he held his own ground, showing that pitbull like nastiness that earned himself a spot on the roster.

This year, the microscope will be focused in on Butler. The margin for error will be so small any little mistake will be criticized by Patriots fans and most importantly his head coach. However, based off what we’ve seen from Butler in his very short career, he will be ready to take on the challenge.

Logan Ryan has been the opposite of Malcolm Butler, a disappointment. In his rookie season he flashed at times intercepting five passes. However, the interceptions masked the fact that he was consistently getting beat by his receivers.

In his sophomore campaign, Ryan only digressed. Whenever he was on the field in 2014, the opposing quarterback attacked him and instantly and picked him apart. Most notably in week thirteen against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.

So far this season, Ryan has received the most amount of reps due to Malcolm Butler’s absence from OTA’s. Players are in only shorts and t-shirts at OTA’s, but based off reports he impressed the most out of any of the cornerbacks.

Ryan has shown nothing yet that proves he can be a number one cornerback on a elite team. Although, he is the most experienced cornerback in the Patriots system so the job may be his for the taking. That should scare Patriots fans big time.

In the end, the battle for the number one cornerback spot on the Patriots roster this summer will most likely be won by Malcolm Butler.

He is far from a proven cornerback in the National Football League, but his ceiling seems to be higher than any of the players on the depth chart. Logan Ryan has only decreased as his career has gone on, leaving me with little hope that he can be an every down starting corner.