Malcolm Butler continues to struggle ahead of the Patriots-Titans matchup

Malcolm Butler Allen Hurns touchdown

Malcolm Butler was at the center of Super Bowl controversy with the Patriots only nine months ago. Now with the Titans, the 28-year-old cornerback’s play has so far justified Bill Belichick’s decision to let him leave in free agency.

Ahead of the Patriots-Titans matchup on Sunday, Butler, who signed with Tennessee for five years and $61.25 million in March, has struggled in the 2018 season with his primary on-field task: coverage.

This was on display during the Titans’ win against the Cowboys on Monday night. Though Tennessee — coached by former Patriot Mike Vrabel — won the game, 28-14, Butler was the closest Titans defender on both Cowboys touchdowns.

Dallas’s opening score went to receiver Amari Cooper, who beat Butler to reach for a touchdown:

Butler was later burned by Cowboys receiver Allen Hurns, as Dallas’s play call took advantage of the former Patriot’s aggressiveness:

Pro Football Focus ranks Butler as the 82nd best cornerback in the NFL, good for an “average” rating. He’s been the closest defender on six touchdowns that the Titans have allowed this season, the second worst mark in the league.

Butler was infamously benched for all but one special teams snap of the Patriots’s Super Bowl LII loss. No explanation was given, and speculation about the move became an ongoing offseason talking point. It was the last game that the hero of Super Bowl XLIX played with the Patriots before leaving as a free agent.

Jason McCourty, who has largely taken over Butler’s role at cornerback across from Stephon Gilmore, has been more effective so far in 2018. According to Pro Football Focus, McCourty is the ninth-ranked cornerback, and is classified as “high quality.”

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