Patriots Mailbag: Malcolm Butler Stacks Up Against NFL’s Top Cornerbacks

It’s extremely rare for the New England Patriots to have a three-game losing streak in any scenario, but that’s where they stand right now in traveling to South Florida.

The Patriots haven’t beat the Miami Dolphins on the road since 2012, when Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez still were prominently involved on offense.

The Patriots will need to change that if they hope to clinch the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs without receiving help from the Denver Broncos in beating the Oakland Raiders. The Patriots are favored and should beat Matt Moore and the Dolphins, but strange things seem to happen in Miami.

Watch above and read below for this week’s mailbag.

@DougKyed Doug, what do you think is the main reason for the defensive turnaround? Weaker offenses, or a real genuine improvement?
— @BlackAttack200
I believe the main reason is a real genuine improvement, but it’s entirely fair to say they’ve played very weak offenses this season. Their defense actually has played the easiest schedule in the NFL, according to Football Outsiders, and that certainly plays into the fact that they rank first in points allowed this season.

But the Patriots were playing crappy offenses early in the season, too, and they weren’t forcing turnovers or preventing points like they are now, so improvements have been made. And they played well against a Baltimore Ravens offense that had scored 38 points in the week before it came to New England.

We’ll see how New England fares Sunday against an average-to-above average Dolphins offense on the road. It’s another good litmus test as the Patriots head into the postseason.

@DougKyed if pats play KC in the playoffs, who covers kelce? Van Noy hasn’t looked good lately and Collins is gone
— @Jbenz323
Safety Patrick Chung likely will be relied upon heavily to cover Travis Kelce if the Patriots play the Chiefs. Fellow safety Devin McCourty also could see time against Kelce, and if the tight end lines up out wide, then Eric Rowe could get a crack, as well.

Chung shut down Kelce in the divisional round of the playoffs last season to the tune of six catches on nine targets for 23 yards.

@DougKyed where on the list of likely available QB’s would you put Jimmy G (including upcoming draft class)?
— @ChefdDds89
I admittedly don’t know a ton about the upcoming quarterback draft class, but I’d put Garoppolo right behind upcoming free agent Kirk Cousins and right in front of Tony Romo, who likely will be traded by the Dallas Cowboys. Romo has a much better track record than Garoppolo, but he’s also a constant injury risk.

The 2017 NFL Draft isn’t believed to have a strong quarterback class, which could incentivize a team to trade for Garoppolo.

@DougKyed who do you envision in the backfield next year with such a strong running back draft class?
— @Rotsen1230
That really depends on whether LeGarrette Blount is back in 2017. I expect him to return, because I can’t envision another team giving a 31-year-old running back a big contract. And if he returns, then there might not be space on the roster for another running back.

Dion Lewis and James White will be back, and the fact that the Patriots are storing D.J. Foster on their active roster bodes well for his future with the team. Brandon Bolden might not be back, but even if he’s not, he could be replaced on the roster by another special teamer rather than a running back.

I know Patriots fans want Christian McCaffrey in the draft, but I would expect them to take a bigger back if they select one. McCaffrey would be redundant with Lewis, White and Foster.

@DougKyed how would you evaluate Malcolm Butler compared to other no. 1 CBs this year? Is he closer to Jalen Ramsey or Brent Grimes?
— @RayJake02
I can’t say I watch other cornerbacks enough to evaluate that, but Pro Football Focus has him as the No. 3 cornerback in the NFL this season behind Chris Harris and Aqib Talib.

Butler is ranked third in coverage and 23rd in run defense by PFF. Butler has allowed some big plays this season, but that can be said for any cornerback. Based on his last two seasons, he certainly stacks up against the NFL’s best corners.

@DougKyed what were Cyrus jones’ defensive metrics in college? Seems like he sucks, hope we didn’t draft him just for him return “ability”
— @Jbenz323
He allowed 39 catches on 68 targets for 497 yards and six touchdowns with two interceptions last season, according to Pro Football Focus, who said he “allowed 10 TDs over the past two seasons, but plays very well between lapses.”

That’s pretty similar to how he’s fared for the Patriots in coverage. He’s been a strong defender for the most part but has allowed two touchdowns and a couple of big plays.

It’s been a lost rookie season for the Alabama product, however, because of ball security issues on special teams. He’ll need to take a major leap in Year 2 to make an impact in 2017.

@DougKyed can you please rank the top 5 potential head coaching destinations for both Josh McDaniels and Matt Patricia? #MailDoug
— @JeffWIIM
Jeff here is a Lions fan and is preparing for Jim Caldwell to be fired if Detroit misses the playoffs.

There are just three jobs open right now, and it’s tough to say if any other head coaches will be fired. But of the available jobs, and Jeff’s Lions, I’d go:

1. Lions
2. Jacksonville Jaguars
3. Los Angeles Rams
4. Buffalo Bills

You could put the Rams above the Jaguars, but I’m not a huge fan of LA QB Jared Goff.

@DougKyed Who, if anyone, should be the main free agency targets on defense?
— @scottfultonlive
The Patriots aren’t big fans of signing traditional unrestricted free agents because it messes with them receiving compensatory draft picks. They’re usually in on players who are released, however.

@DougKyed #MailDoug If you were an offensive coordinator, how would you attack the Patriot’s defense?
— @MrQuindazzi
If I had a mobile quarterback, I definitely would try to scramble on them. I also would throw as much as possible to running backs out of the backfield, especially if Dont’a Hightower isn’t on the field. Kyle Van Noy and Shea McClellin have struggled in coverage in recent weeks.

@DougKyed we now know the rumored value NE is asking for for Jimmy G, but if you were the Pats GM, what would you ask for for him? #MailDoug
— @ChaseDawg2
I’d ask for two first-round picks and see how a team reacted. I think Garoppolo is really, really good and certainly isn’t worth giving up for less than a first-round pick-plus.

If the Patriots can’t get that, they should keep him and potentially franchise him in 2018.

@DougKyed Do you think the Pats will be comfortable using Lengel more as a passing option or is he just Mulligan 2.0? #MailDoug
— @StephenPorier
I think he’s Mulligan 2.0. He made a nice touchdown grab against the Jets, but that was his first career reception. He’s a big target, but with the way he tested coming out of college and the way he’s been used so far in his short Patriots career, it would be surprising if he became a heavily utilized passing weapon.

@DougKyed Is it unrealistic to expect Floyd to contribute in the playoffs? He has to be #5 on the WR depth chart. #MailDoug
— @SFFF_Podcast
It is a little bit unrealistic, but we’ll see how he plays in Week 17, when he’s likely to take on a bigger role with Malcolm Mitchell dealing with a knee injury.

Floyd has a ton of talent, and if he can live up to it and pick up the Patriots’ offense quickly enough, then he should be used in the postseason. But if he’s struggling to grasp the concepts, then Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Mitchell and Danny Amendola are better targets for Tom Brady.

Let’s go rapid fire.

@DougKyed If McDaniels leaves to coach elsewhere who are some candidates to replace him as OC?
— @Cjudson11
It likely would be tight ends coach Brian Daboll, who has run a similar offense with the Miami Dolphins, Kansas City Chiefs and Cleveland Browns.

@DougKyed sup? #MailDoug
— @June__NYC
Watching “Breaking Bad,” trying to get this mailbag finished at a reasonable hour.

@DougKyed What would you ACTUALLY do for a Klondike bar?
— @BenjeeBallgame
I’d pay at least $3 for a six-pack.

@DougKyed pizza or calzone?
— @WesWhite5011
Pizza. I like calzones and all, but are there really people who prefer them??

@DougKyed Most crushing celebrity death of 2016? #MailDoug #KyedRhymesWithDied
— @TeamCrazyMatt
Jose Fernandez.

Alan Thicke and Carrie Fisher were huge parts of my childhood, though.

@DougKyed Anyway we can bribe the Patriot’s personnel department to put Cyrus Jones on IR? #MailDoug
— @MrQuindazzi

He did miss practice with a knee injury Thursday…

@DougKyed ya like jazz?
— @edelgoat
Not really, but I like these songs.

@DougKyed What team(s) would present the easiest scenario for the Pats to get to the AFC Championship/Superbowl? #maildoug
— @Lab_Casual
If they could somehow play the Dolphins and Houston Texans, that would be the easiest scenario. Seems unlikely, though.

Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images

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