Titans' remedial messages to Malcolm Butler a big concern

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Bring in a guy who should be the best player at his position and its OK if he’s not the best for a stretch. But he can’t be the worst.ButlerCrabtree

The Titans are surviving Malcolm Butler right now, and they can afford to continue to be patient, I suppose because they’ve got the NFL’s top scoring defense even with him playing as the third cornerback.

It’s hard, however, not to have a bad feeling about Butler heading into a game against Bill Belichick, the coach who found him as an undrafted free agent, built him up into a player who made a Super-Bowl winning play.

Then Butler mysteriously sat out the Super Bowl loss in Minnesota against the Eagles, creating an intriguing storyline that could go with Belichick to his grave or at least to his post-career book.

He is an aggressive player whose aggression is effectively being used against him by offenses, and he needs to find a way for that not to happen.TicketsBox

“Most definitely, hard to balance,” Butler said. “But just have to work my way around it. Just make plays and play football. Just do what I've been doing my whole career. Just got to hold up.”

When the Titans signed Butler to a five-year, $61.25 million contract with $30 million total guaranteed he figured to be one of the best players on the defense. But he’s the 12th man and a big-play liability.

Mike Vrabel sais Butler is competitive, quick and strong. But he spoke again this week about Butler’s eye discipline.

‘When you play man coverage, you have to look at your man,” Vrabel said. “Malcolm knows that, and we’ve talked about that, and we continue to practice it, we continue to coach it and we try to show it to him. 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 go in another direction."

I'm sure coaches revisit basics with players all the time. But that is some remedial stuff for a high-priced player who was supposed to come in and make an impact, who was a fireball in training camp. It left me wondering if the Titans need to press pause with Butler and look to LeShaun Sims for a bit, an idea Vrabel shot down.

I asked a scout how he felt about a $30 million cornerback needing the elemental conversation about eye placement eight games into the big contract.Butler

“He shouldn’t have those issues at this stage of the game as a vet,” he said. “There’s a reason he went to West Alabama. There’s a reason he went undrafted out of West Alabama. There’s a reason he didn’t play in Super Bowl. Lack of focus may be at the root…

“The guy that wears the hood usually is a big factor in the success of A LOT of these guys.”

Butler isn’t alone in facing his old team this weekend. Dion Lewis jumped from the Patriots after last year along with Butler. Logan Ryan came in 2016 and Josh Kline was claimed off waivers the same year.

To hear Butler tell it, it’s just another game.

“It's just a game,” he said. “It's just a game. I know I used to play for New England and all of that. I'm not over-hyped, I'm not (over)-pumped. It's just another game. I got to be ready to play. No matter who I play, people are throwing the ball. I just got to be ready.

Ryan suggested this week on The Midday 180 that the contract may be putting some undue pressure on Butler.

apple icon 57x57 precomposedButler said maybe he's pressing once in a while.

“It probably hit it here and there, but that's a done deal,” he said. “The contract is what it is. There's nothing I can do. Nothing anybody can do.

“I just got to hold up for my performance and play better.”

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