Rookie Edition: Butler Primed for a Big Role Early | Washington Commanders

Updated: Jul 19


By Adam Aniba


Washington addressed multiple positions of need during the draft, even surprising some fans by passing on Notre Dame free safety Kyle Hamilton at #11. Coach Rivera instead, opted to trade back and selected a WR, DT and RB with their first three selections. WIth the 8th pick in round four, Washington selected Louisiana safety Percy Butler. The Ragin Cajun is a pure free safety and a special teams standout. His 4.36 speed and ability in zone coverage make him an ideal compliment for fellow safety Kamren Curl.



Percy Butler

6'0" 194 lbs | FS | Louisiana

Career Stats (42 games) 167 tak (107 solo), 9.0 TFL, 3 ints, 13 PD, 1 sack, 5 FF, 5 FR & 1 BK

2021 (13 games) 60 tak (36 solo), 6 TFL, 1 ints, 4 PD & 3 FR


Quick Background

Butler grew up Plaquemine, LA and was a standout defensive back for Plaquemine HS. As a senior, Butler earned 2nd- Team All-State honors after registering 91 tackles (62 solo), 8 pass break ups, 3 forced fumbles and 2 fumble recoveries. He also saw time at receiver and was a member of the track & field team.

In '18 he decided to stay local, committing to play for the Louisiana Ragin Cajuns. He played sparingly his freshman season, registering 9 tackles and recorded his first career pass breakup vs Alabama. For the next 3 seasons, Butler was known for his punishing hits and his ability as a deep ball disruptor (ranked 3rd in tackles on the team in '21).


His ability to be the last line of defense for the Ragin Cajuns, led to 12 passes defended with 3 ints. Butler's efforts in '21, landed him a spot on the 2nd Team All-Conference team and increased his national attention during the pre-draft process.


PROS

  • Extremely Fast for the position (tied for 2nd fastest forty time among safeties during the NFL Combine)

  • Special teams standout at gunner

  • Smooth in his backpedal, displaying the ability to effectively flip his hips to redirect in coverage

  • Tailor made for zone coverage/coverage shell schemes

  • Displays impressive timing on 50/50 balls

  • Although tackling technique/refinement needed, he's willing to mix it up and displays impressive situational awareness (5 career forced fumbles & 5 recoveries)


CONS

  • Has a tendency to bite on play-action at times

  • Lean frame is a slight concern

  • Tendency to take bad tackling angles

  • Lunges too often, rather than wrapping up ball carriers

  • Limited overall explosion (31.5" vertical & 10/2 foot broad jump)

  • Struggled in man-to-man coverage


Rivera recently sat down with Julie Donaldson and discussed his vision for Butler.

"Last year we played over 53% of the defensive snaps involving 3 safeties, so minimum he's gonna be in there for 53% of the snaps at least. He'll be part of our Buffalo and Nickel packages, he'll get an opportunity to play the nickel position. When we go to Big Nickel, he could end up as the safety or he could end up as the Big Nickel. We're going to be able to continue to use our three safety defense a lot because of what his versatility, speed, his quickness and play smarts mean."

Final Thought

Many will say it's premature to assume that Butler will get an opportunity to start, but RIvera and others around the league are encouraged with the free safeties ceiling. His ability and instincts in run defense are a work in progress, but make no mistake, Butler is a fierce hitter. Although special teams is where he could thrive, the 4th rounder was selected with big plans in mind.

It's clear Rivera believes in Butler's ability to immediately contributor on Del Rio's defense. When asked about the gunner role on special teams, Rivera had the following to say.

"If a guy receives 53% of the snaps, pretty much says you're a starter. You got to be careful with those guys too."

Safety/slot Bobby McCain returns, but as Rivera mentioned, the Buffalo Nickel formation will be the team's alignment over 50% of the the time. The Big Nickel role is something Butler could learn, but taking over as their true free safety seems like his ultimate destination.


Butler will get valuable reps in training camp and preseason. He'll also get the chance to work with and learn from another former day 3 draft selection in Curl, who can be an ideal mentor. Learning the nuances of the Buffalo Nickel formation and carving out a role on special teams, will lead to early opportunities for the rookie safety.


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*Games Watched- 9/4/22 vs Texas, 9/16 vs Ohio, 9/25 vs GA So, 10/2 vs S.Ala, 10/12 vs App St., 10/21 vs Ark St., 10/30 vs Tex St., 11/04 vs GA St., 11/13 vs Troy, 11/20 vs

Liberty, 11/27 vs LA Monroe, 12/4 vs App ST., 12/18 vs Marshall (New Orleans Bowl)





*YouTube credit Sway Run

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