Michael Bennett may have a “philosophical disagreement” regarding his role in the dominant New England defense, but it certainly seems that third-year former undrafted defensive lineman Adam Butler has no such issues.
Butler, who is playing about 50 percent of the defensive snaps compared to just 35 percent for the first-year Patriot Bennett, has been a somewhat surprisingly impactful force through the first six weeks.
According to New England defensive line coach Bret Bielema, Butler’s impact goes well beyond his 10 tackles, 2.5 sacks, three QB hits and 1 pass defensed.
“The assist only comes up in basketball where you have to give someone the ball to make the shot. But if they counted assists in football, (Butler) does more things to draw the attention or create a blocking scheme that frees up another player repeatedly within our schemes, and that’s a true testament to him,” Bielema explained in conference call with local reporters this week. “I’d say that a lot of the other defensive guys, they would probably tell you they want Adam lining up next to them as much as anybody because he creates that type of play for other people.”
A former undrafted rookie out of Vanderbilt who played about 36 percent of New England’s snaps a year ago – he finished with 17 tackles, 3 sacks, a pass defensed and a forced fumble – Butler desired a bigger role on the Patriots defense and worked to earn it leading up to 2019.
“I think Adam is a very unique player, and the fact that even last year he was more of a third-down role, a guy that was used in sub packages and used in certain ways. I really give a lot of credit to him. We talked in the spring about becoming a more complete player on early downs and being able to play certain techniques,” Bielema explained. “He’s long, he’s athletic; he has a way to bend. He’s one of those guys that really does very seldom ever get out of position. He has very good balance; understands leverage. He’s a very intelligent player. He uses that Vanderbilt degree every day if you know what I mean. He truly is a guy that really gets it, understands it, can process it and the thing this year working with him during the course of a game, he literally understands when things happen literally on the spot. He can come to the sideline, digest what just happened, what they’re trying to do, how we can combat it. He gives a lot of really good information. As coaches, sometimes you don’t get all the most accurate information sometimes, but I will say that AB really does take a lot of pride in his skill set on game day and that’s what’s really shown up.”
While Butler may not have the resume of a guy like Bennett or the draft status of former first-round teammate Danny Shelton, there is little question the young veteran is maximizing his skills and increased opportunity in the Patriots defense that’s been so impressive to open the season.
“The one thing I’ve always tried to stress to Adam is, ‘Be the great you. Don’t try to be something you’re not. Don’t try to be something that’s not in your DNA. Just be good at what you’re good at.’ That’s really what I’ve tried to stress to him and that’s really come out. I don’t know if he ever saw himself as an every-down player in the past, and he’s really embraced that role,” Bielema concluded.