By Adam Aniba
Former Louisiana University defensive back Percy Butler (College Scouting Report) made his mark on special teams as a gunner in '22.
Butler was active in 15 games last season, predominantly playing on special teams. He finished his rookie season with 9 tackles and 1 pass defended. He was targeted 6 times, giving up 3 receptions for only 6.3 per yards per reception.
The former 4th rounder is primed for a breakout season, after impressing coaches with his progress in coverage during offseason OTA's. It's believed that Butler will play a significant role in the Buffalo Nickel, which has become a frequently used staple in Jack Del Rio's defense.
The early, but certain projection have Kam Curl starting at strong safety with Darrick Forrest at free safety. The single high safety is the last line of defense and the Buffalo Nickel allows for Forrest and Butler to be interchangeable.
The lack of upgrades at linebacker have been a frequent discussion among fans and viewed as the weakest link on the team. Washington has frequently lined up in variations of their nickel package, spending over 70% of the time in that alignment and that trend likely continues this season.
It's likely the Commanders will utilize 5-6 defensive backs frequently this season, which has been evident with their attention to the position over the last two drafts. Although they'll face some offenses that are run heavy, Washington will still be in their nickel alignments the majority of the time.
Coaches would like to see Curl play close to the line when possible, based on his ability vs the run and ability to match up against elite tight ends. This allows Butler, Forrest and even rookie Quan Martin (Scouting Report) to be utilized in single high situations.
Butler is the fastest of the trio though and Del rio will likely use that to his advantage, especially when facing high octane passing offenses. If Butler can put it all together, he'll see a dramatic increase in snaps this season.
Butler must prove he's not a liability if tasked with playing the run, which shouldn't be an issue based on his growth as a special teams gunner.
Although Forrest displayed his ability as a center fielder, when all is said and done Butler might be the best single high safety on the defense.