Patriots notebook: Malcolm Butler knows defense must build off momentum from Tampa Bay win

October 13, 2017 GMT

FOXBORO — Cornerback Malcolm Butler has been eager to end the Patriots’ 10-day layoff and get back on the field Sunday against the Jets.

That’s because the Pats made some defensive progress last week against the Buccaneers, but they’ve been honest that the performance should have been better. They’ve got another opportunity to pull themselves from the depths of the league’s defensive ranks with a visit to MetLife Stadium.

“We’ve got to,” Butler said. “It could have been a lot better, but we’re going to take that and build off of it. Keep rolling.”

The Jets pose an interesting challenge because, to put it politely, they don’t boast the most talented offense in the league. The group has been almost entirely remade from last season, as quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker have been replaced by Josh McCown, Jermaine Kearse and Jeremy Kerley.

Among quarterbacks with at least 50 attempts, McCown ranks second in the NFL with a 71.4 completion percentage, but is only averaging 9.7 yards per completion. Only three teams have a worse average this season.

“I’ve just got to play the way I play and defend the best way I can,” Butler said. “(McCown) is just making smart decisions. That’s all it is. Smart, good decisions, good football.

“They’re pretty good. They’ve got Kearse. He can stretch the field. Robby Anderson can do the same, speed guy. Kerley is a good slot receiver. (ArDarius) Stewart, he’s pretty quick. They’ve got a lot of good young talent on their team. If they get going, they can be scary.”

But this is a week that’s more about the Patriots defense than the Jets offense. If the visitors handle their business, they’ll feel a lot better about themselves before facing a far more daunting challenge a week later against the Falcons.

That’s why Butler strongly said they’ve got to keep moving in the right direction on defense, regardless of what anyone on the outside is saying.

“I feel that way anyway,” Butler said. “Everyone should feel that way. It doesn’t matter what they say. It matters how you feel, and I feel that way.”

Trust the vet

Linebacker Dont’a Hightower gushed over David Harris’ presence this season, saying the former Jet has been a leader and role model in the locker room and that he is smart enough to be a defensive coordinator after his playing career.

And not just that, but Harris has only played seven defensive snaps and fallen to the bottom of the depth chart. But Hightower credited Harris for handling his role admirably.

“I think that says a lot about him,” Hightower said. “Not just as a football player but as a person, as well. You can take it as younger guys trying to take food out of his kid’s mouth or whatever, but David doesn’t see it as that. He’s taking it as a Patriot. He’s taking it for what it is and what it’s worth. It’s a long season. You never know what’s going to happen or when his number is going to be called.

“One thing is for certain, that whenever his number is called, David is going to be ready. It’s not going to be ‘Can he still do it?’ or ‘Is he capable of doing it?’ I mean, everything’s there. He’s definitely keeping a positive mindset, and I know myself and a lot of the younger guys appreciate what he does and what he brings to this team.”

Roster shuffle

The Patriots tinkered with their practice squad, signing tight end Will Tye, re-signing linebacker Trevor Reilly, releasing safety Alex Carter and placing offensive lineman Cole Toner on injured reserve.

Tye has 94 career receptions for 897 yards and four touchdowns in three seasons with the Giants and Jets. Reilly was with the Patriots practice squad last season. And Toner didn’t last long, as the Pats signed him Monday.

Relief effort

The Patriots, Raiders, Steelers, Cowboys and NFL Foundation combined to contribute $250,000 to earthquake relief efforts in Mexico City. The contributions from the Patriots have gone toward a fund that will help rebuild homes that were impacted by last month’s earthquake.

The Patriots and Raiders are scheduled to play in Mexico City on Nov. 19.