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Butler emerges at cornerback for the Rams

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  • Butler emerges at cornerback for the Rams

    By Bill Coats
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Saturday, Dec. 18 2004

    Undersized and underhyped, cornerback Jerametrius Butler never figured that
    it'd be easy to crack the Rams' lineup.

    "When I first got here, we had Dre Bly, Dexter McCleon, it was Aeneas
    (Williams') first year, and we had Jacoby Shepherd," Butler said. "I went fifth
    round, the lowest pick among the corners. ... Eventually those guys left and I
    got an opportunity to play."

    Bly (1999), McCleon (1997) and Shepherd (2000) were drafted in the second
    round. Williams, who had played in six Pro Bowls with Arizona, was acquired in
    a trade on April 21, 2001 - just a few hours before Butler was the team's
    eighth pick of the day (145th overall).

    Only Williams remains with the Rams, who moved him to free safety. Now, four
    years into an NFL career that he wondered would ever get off the ground, Butler
    "is our best corner," according to teammate Michael Coleman.

    Coleman should know. As a wide receiver on the scout team, he goes against
    Butler every day in practice.

    "He plays real smart," Coleman said. "Most of the d-backs, they're a little
    more instinctive. But J.B. always seems like he plays according to the
    situation - yardage and things like that."

    Coach Mike Martz goes even further than Coleman: He believes that Butler, a
    5-foot-10, 181-pound Kansas State product, has developed into one of the best
    corners anywhere.

    "Find a corner that's playing better than J.B. in the National Football League.
    Find one," Martz implored. "He's just extraordinary right now."

    Interceptions in the last two games boosted Butler's total to five, a career
    high and tied him for the most in the NFC (before Saturday's games). Buffalo's
    Ed Reed had eight interceptions and Cincinnati's Tory James had seven; Butler
    and six other players had five.

    "He has an uncanny ability to run with the defender deep and turn and find the
    ball and make the play," Martz said. "That's hard to do. Very few guys can do
    that. He does that consistently well."

    Among other keys to getting interceptions, Butler explained, is combining
    on-field anticipation with off-field scrutiny of team's tendencies in various
    formations as well as receivers' idiosyncrasies.

    "Teams like to throw certain routes at you in certain formations," he said.
    "That's how I got an interception against San Francisco" two weeks ago, on a
    slant pattern.

    As for individual matchups with receivers, "I do film study, and I ask around,
    ask other players what they did when they played them in the past," Butler
    said. "I look at things like how far they are from the bottom of the numbers
    (on the field), how they release, how they run their routes and how the
    quarterback likes to throw the ball.

    "Some receivers like to attack the ball when it's in the air, and others like
    to wait for the ball to come down. I like to watch things like that."

    Butler moved into the lineup last year at left corner. He started 15 games
    alongside right corner Travis Fisher, tying for the team high with four
    interceptions and recording 95 tackles, No. 8 among the Rams defenders.

    In addition to his five interceptions this season - which represent a
    significant chunk of the team's 13 takeaways - Butler has 85 tackles, a total
    exceeded only by linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa (119) and strong safety Adam
    Archuleta (101).

    "His skills are impeccable," Martz said. "He's got great plant and drive, quick
    feet. He's a good tackler for a guy his size. In the last two years, where he
    was and where he is right now is pretty remarkable."

    Yet Butler realizes that he lacks the reputation of big-name defensive backs
    ... at this point, anyway.

    "I don't really worry about that," he said. "It's been like that ever since
    I've been in high school (in Dallas) and college. When I was in high school, I
    started three years on varsity and some of teachers didn't even know I played
    football.

    "I never got recognition. I just try to do my job on Sunday."

    Still, he acknowledged that he covets a Pro Bowl selection.

    "That was a dream of mine when I was young," he said. "If I go, I go. If I
    don't, I'll keep trying. But I hope I do make it this year."
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