FOXBORO, Mass. — Malcolm Butler was excited to see some colors other than blue and white on the New England Patriots’ practice fields Monday morning.
Monday marked the first of three joint practices New England will hold with the visiting Jacksonville Jaguars this week, giving Butler and the rest of the Patriots an opportunity to match up against players from a different team for the first time this summer.
“It’s great to go against somebody other than Julian (Edelman) and (Danny) Amendola and all those guys,” Butler said after the session. “It was great — good competition out there. Trying to get better each and every day. Trying to build off today and just keep improving.”
Butler came away with the Patriots’ lone interception Monday, stepping in front of a Blake Bortles pass that was intended for wide receiver Allen Robinson.
“I was covering the receiver, I looked around, and the ball was there,” Butler explained. “I just made a play.”
He added: “I was locked in on the receiver. I didn’t even know the ball was coming. I was just paying attention to my guy, took a gamble and looked back for the ball, and it was there.”
Robinson, who is listed at 6-foot-3, 211 pounds and made the Pro Bowl in 2015, poses a different challenge than the smaller, quicker receivers Butler typically is tasked with covering. The 5-foot-11 cornerback said he has to “be smarter” when going up against bigger wideouts and have a better read on their strengths and weaknesses.
“(Robinson is) a big guy,” Butler said. “Got a little speed. He can stretch the field. He can do short routes, deep routes, intermediate routes. He’s a great player. The only thing we’re out there doing is getting each other better, so I’m glad to have him out there.”
The Patriots will see a number of big-bodied receivers during the first half of the regular season, including Michael Thomas of the New Orleans Saints in Week 2, Kelvin Benjamin of the Carolina Panthers in Week 4, Mike Evans of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 5 and Julio Jones of the Atlanta Falcons in Week 7. All four are at least 6-foot-3, and Benjamin and Evans both are 6-foot-5.
There’s no guarantee Butler will be tasked with covering any of those players, but he said competing against someone like Robinson is good practice regardless.
“Most definitely,” Butler said. “We’ve got some big opponents coming up this year, and we’re getting ready for any situation with Jacksonville here. We’ll be ready as a team.”
Thumbnail photo via Zack Cox/NESN.com