Patriots cornerback Darius Butler was on fire at the start of training camp in 2010, but he stumbled a bit later in the summer and had a nightmarish afternoon in Week 2 against the Jets. As a result, he lost his job and struggled to regain his swagger.
The competition on the cornerback depth chart will be fierce in training camp, and there's a strong possibility that a well-known name could face the chopping block. Because of that, it will be important for Butler to start strong once again.
Butler, Devin McCourty, Leigh Bodden, Ras-I Dowling, Kyle Arrington, Jonathan Wilhite, Tony Carter and Thad Turner are among the cornerbacks who will battle for five or six spots.
Why He'll Make the Team
Butler wasn't a second-round draft pick in 2009 by accident. He's a good player who showed some ability as a rookie, and then he tore it up at the start of camp in 2010, to the point where he was the best cornerback on the roster for a decent portion of the summer. He's athletic and has good ball skills, and even if he doesn't earn one of the two starting spots, he's better suited to play slot corner than his counterparts at the position. That versatility is definitely in his favor.
Why He Might Not Make the Team
Butler really struggled in coverage at the start of the regular season, and he had his toughest battles against bigger wide receivers such as Braylon Edwards. Butler then appeared to lose his confidence, but he did play better at the end of the season, which might have had to do with the restoration of his confidence. Yet, if the Patriots only choose to keep five cornerbacks, the last two slots could be up for grabs between Butler, Arrington and Wilhite, which will make the abbreviated training camp an intense one.
Despite Butler's troubles last season, the second-round pick has shown way too much promise to let him go in 2011, and his ability as a slot corner really shouldn't be overlooked. Plus, if he can play well in nickel packages, it will allow the Patriots the opportunity to put Patrick Chung in a more traditional safety role, which figures to be in the defense's best interest. Expect Butler to remain with the Patriots in 2011.
Every day through Aug. 1, Jeff Howe will spotlight one player who could potentially be on the Patriots' roster bubble.
Thursday, July 21: Defensive lineman Ron Brace
Saturday, July 23: Defensive lineman Eric Moore