On Monday morning, Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel explained the reason behind the frequent struggles of cornerback Malcolm Butler in his day-after-game press conference.
Butler, who signed a five-year contract worth up to $61 million with the team over the offseason, has been subpar, to say the least, to start the season. It seems that Titans opponents are specifically targeting him in the passing game.
“Malcolm plays extremely hard,” explained Vrabel. “It’s not about effort, it’s about technique.”
Vrabel went on to describe some of the specific issues with Butler’s technique. “When you give up a pass or anything that has to do with eyes. If you’re playing a quarterback on a zone read and you’re looking at the quarterback and not the running back or whatever you’re supposed to be doing, you have to know where to look.
Malcolm Butler looks like one of the worst CBs in the league right now. What in the world has happened to him.
— Titan Sized (@Titan_Sized) October 14, 2018
“I think technique comes down to execution a lot. It’s ‘when am I supposed to be reading the quarterback and when am I supposed to be reading my man.’ We have to make sure that everybody is on the same page, that when I’m supposed to be looking at my man, I have to be looking at the guy I’m covering and not at the quarterback.”
One of the things that plagued Butler toward the end of his tenure with the New England Patriots was his tendency to be too aggressive. With Butler, that aggressiveness can be a blessing and a curse.
CB Logan Ryan, one of Butler’s teammates, described him during Training Camp as “an ultra-competitor,” adding that, “he’s fearless, he plays super hard. He’s going to talk his junk, and he’s going to back it up.”
So far this season, Butler’s aggressive nature has been his demise. It has resulted in him allowing several chunk gains in the passing game.
Butler has allowed gains of 75, 39, and 56 yards, respectively, to receivers Kenny Stills (Dolphins), Will Fuller (Texans), and Jordan Matthews (Eagles).
The biggest question that remains regarding Butler is whether he will be able to turn it around and regain the form that earned him an All-Pro selection following the 2016 season. Rookie linebacker Rashaan Evans has full confidence in his teammate to do just that.
“Malcolm, I’m not worried about him,” said Evans. “Malcolm has been in Super Bowl games, lost Super Bowl games, won Super Bowl games. It’s the NFL, you’re going to have games like that. The number one thing I feel like is always about how you bounce back, how you respond to a game like that.”
Vrabel breaks down the struggles of CB Malcolm Butler. pic.twitter.com/JFkSljinCB
— AtoZSports Nashville (@AtoZSports) October 15, 2018
Vrabel thinks that Butler’s issues with technique and eye placement can indeed be fixed with coaching. “That’s the idea. I hope something we can talk to our players about is something they can improve on, that we can do a better job of coaching it and explaining it and showing it to them.
“That when you play your man, you challenge them and you don’t look back at the quarterback, you break up the pass. Sometimes when you have a tendency to look at the quarterback, you give up a play.”
Every aspect of the Titans team, from coaching to execution, can improve following their 21-0 disaster against the Ravens. Considering the size of the paycheck that Butler receives, though, his improvement should be a priority.
Cover image via USA Today.