Five Patriots Who Could Become The Next Malcolm Butler In Super Bowl LI

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Malcolm Butler has come incredibly far in just two short years from unlikely Super Bowl hero to the top cornerback on the No. 1 defense in points allowed.

Butler is heading back to the Super Bowl next week with a much larger role against the Atlanta Falcons. Butler was the Patriots’ No. 5 cornerback behind Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner, Kyle Arrington and Logan Ryan in Super Bowl XLIX and only thrust into game action after Arrington and Ryan struggled in that game.

So, could anyone on the Patriots become the next Butler and go from being a roster afterthought to Super Bowl hero and future starter?

Here are some candidates.

RB D.J. FOSTER
Foster has been a healthy scratch for most of the season, so it’s unlikely he’ll be active in Super Bowl LI. But it’s clear the Patriots like what they see from the undrafted rookie running back, since he’s mostly been stashed on the team’s active roster this season.

It likely would take an injury in practice for Foster to play in the Super Bowl, so this one is unlikely but worth mentioning. If Foster did make a play in the Super Bowl, it would absolutely leave the general public asking “Who is that?”

TE MATT LENGEL
Lengel played 82 total offensive snaps for the Patriots this season after being signed off the Cincinnati’s Bengals’ practice squad before New England’s Week 9 bye week. He caught one pass this season, an 18-yard touchdown. He played 14 offensive snaps in the divisional round and only was used on special teams in the AFC Championship Game.

He originally came into the NFL as an undrafted free agent out of Eastern Kentucky with the Bengals in 2015 but never played in a game prior to joining the Patriots. He caught just 33 passes for 361 yards in six years at college.

All of this is a roundabout way of saying it would be a pretty gigantic surprise if Lengel made a major impact in the Super Bowl. But he is the Patriots’ backup tight end. So if the Patriots want to use two tight ends or if Martellus Bennett suffers an injury, Lengel could find his way into the offense under unideal circumstances for the Patriots. And if he catches a touchdown, he could be a Super Bowl hero.

DE GENEO GRISSOM
Yeah, Grissom was a third-round pick in 2015, but he only played 11 defensive snaps in 2016 with most of his work coming on special teams.

Grissom is sixth on the defensive end depth chart behind Trey Flowers, Rob Ninkovich, Chris Long, Jabaal Sheard and Shea McClellin, so it would take a lot for him to see time on defense.

Grissom, however, could make a big play on special teams.

LB ELANDON ROBERTS
Roberts making an impact in the Super Bowl wouldn’t be as big of a surprise as Butler two years ago, but he was a sixth-round pick who had stretches of inactivity this season. After playing just five combined snaps between Weeks 12 and 14 and 28 snaps between Weeks 11 and 15, Roberts has played 115 snaps in the Patriots’ last four games.

He’s made impact plays this season and has recently been strong in run defense.

CB JONATHAN JONES
Jones is the perfect candidate because he, like Butler two years ago, is an undrafted rookie cornerback who rarely played on defense. In fact, he played even fewer snaps than Butler did in 2014 with 64 this season.

He’ll likely enter the Super Bowl as the Patriots’ No. 4 cornerback behind Butler, Ryan and Eric Rowe if Cyrus Jones and Justin Coleman continue to be healthy scratches. If Ryan or Rowe struggles, Jones could find his way onto the field on defense just as Butler did during Super Bowl XLIX.

Thumbnail photo via James Lang/USA TODAY Sports Images

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