Arizona Cardinals rookie film room: 5 plays that define Hakeem Butler

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AMES, IA - SEPTEMBER 9: Wide receiver Hakeem Butler #18 of the Iowa State Cyclones runs into the end zone uncontested to score a touchdown in the second half of play against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Jack Trice Stadium on September 9, 2017 in Ames, Iowa. The Iowa Hawkeyes won 44-41 over the Iowa State Cyclones. (Photo by David Purdy/Getty Images)
AMES, IA - SEPTEMBER 9: Wide receiver Hakeem Butler #18 of the Iowa State Cyclones runs into the end zone uncontested to score a touchdown in the second half of play against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Jack Trice Stadium on September 9, 2017 in Ames, Iowa. The Iowa Hawkeyes won 44-41 over the Iowa State Cyclones. (Photo by David Purdy/Getty Images) /
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AMES, IA – SEPTEMBER 28: Defensive back DeShon Elliott #4 of the Texas Longhorns intercepts a pass meant for wide receiver Hakeem Butler #18 of the Iowa State Cyclones in the first half of play at Jack Trice Stadium on September 28, 2017 in Ames, Iowa. (Photo by David Purdy/Getty Images)
AMES, IA – SEPTEMBER 28: Defensive back DeShon Elliott #4 of the Texas Longhorns intercepts a pass meant for wide receiver Hakeem Butler #18 of the Iowa State Cyclones in the first half of play at Jack Trice Stadium on September 28, 2017 in Ames, Iowa. (Photo by David Purdy/Getty Images) /

Play 5: @ Texas, 3rd quarter, 7:18 remaining, 1st & 10

What the offense is running: Shotgun with a fake sweep and deep go to Butler. This appears to be a one read play.

What the defense is running: Appears to be man coverage with a single high safety (Cover 1 variant).

What Hakeem Butler is tasked to do: Run a go route.

What happens: This is the type of coverage Butler will see a lot of in the NFL; physical, press-man. Though this play is less flashy than most every play in this article, it’s a good showing of how he can win against physical pressing cornerbacks, and how his lack of quickness does keep cornerback’s close.

From the get-go notice that Butler is running with his shoulders over his pads; due to his size (6-inch advantage vs. Boyd), and momentum from his first-step, Butler doesn’t have to use technique to get past the cornerback. Instead, he can blow past him, and use his hands to continue his favorable outside leverage.

Now, about that catch. This is an NFL catch as his two feet were down. He shows excellent body control to contort his body to the catch and tackle mid-air and again extends to attack the ball in the air. This is a properly run go route, if he can do that on a consistent basis in the NFL, he won’t need to expand his route tree (kidding, kinda).

Takeaways: 

  • Butler strategically doesn’t use a step-technique to get open, rather, he simply uses his size and momentum to blow past the defender. This may work against smaller, less developed, NFL cornerbacks, but the Richard Sherman‘s of the world will play Butler physically in the contact box to move his frame.
  • The cornerback, Kris Boyd, plays this perfectly. Despite having a half foot height disadvantage, he played Butler physically and challenged him for this play. He was drafted by the Vikings in the seventh.
  • Butler knows how to play the sideline. This isn’t the first play showing his ability to catch in tight space, nor is it the first one that shows his body control and ‘toe drag swag’ tendencies.  His length coupled with spacial awareness is a nice bonus to his game.
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