In the season opener, Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler was on the field for every defensive snap of a 42-27 loss to the Chiefs.
Butler’s playing time dropped to 75 percent of the snaps against the Saints in Week Two and didn’t start as Eric Rowe, who played a little over half the snaps each week, was on the field opposite Stephon Gilmore to open the game. Those changes led to questions about Butler for coach Bill Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia on Tuesday conference calls.
Belichick was asked if Butler’s play has been as consistent as it was in the past and his answer didn’t address Butler’s play specifically, but the coach said “we’re into a new season” and that he doesn’t “think anybody’s performance this season is really where it needs to be” at this point.
Patricia talked a bit about different situations calling for different personnel, but reiterated Belichick’s point about the present taking precedence over the past.
“In terms of asking me as far as for us defensively, you know it’s all about this year,” Patricia said in comments distributed by the team. “I think what things have gone down in the past doesn’t really matter to us. We’re trying to get better for this year and the guys that are out there and positions or where we think they need to be right now currently and to help us win that particular week.”
The Patriots have never been sentimental about players when they feel they have a better option. That said, we are only two games into a long season and there will be further changes to the way the Patriots deploy their defensive backs so it probably isn’t the time to draw any big conclusions about how the coaching staff views Butler.