Dallas Cowboys: WR Brice Butler Breaking Out


Dallas Cowboys receiver, Brice Butler, turned some heads on Sunday against the Buffalo Bills and may have secured a role on the 2016 team as a result.

The Dallas Cowboys may finally have something to feel good about as they close out the most disappointing season in recent memory. Brice Butler, a gifted but unproven receiver out of San Diego State, has flashed some talent late in the season and may have carved out a place on the 2016 roster as a result.

At 6’3” 215lbs, Brice Butler has the physical dimensions the Dallas Cowboys covet in a receiver. And his 4.36 second 40-time and his 39-inch vertical jump are star-quality measureables that make him such a tantalizing prospect. We say prospect because that vast potential is largely unrealized…until recently, that is…

Acquired in September via trade from the Oakland Raiders, Butler came to the Dallas Cowboys to offer depth to a thin receiving corps. The Cowboys were hoping he could provide the team a high-ceiling project that could hopefully develop and meaningfully contribute at some point as well.

Butler battled behind former fifth round pick, Devin Street, for playing time and flashed big-play ability when he pulled in a 67-yard reception against the New Orleans Saints early in the season. Butler would injure his hamstring on that very same play and would struggle to contribute for the coming weeks because of what was called a “lingering hamstring injury”.

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Brice Butler is a player who had all of the skills but just struggled putting it together in a consistent way. He’s fast but not exceptionally quick and can be a bit of a long-strider who builds up his speed rather than explodes to top gear.

When the Dallas Cowboys traded for Butler, DallasCowboys.com’s Bryan Broaddus offered up the following evaluation: “For a tall guy, he’s got a knack for making tacklers miss in space. He has talent to be more than just a flash player, but I would like to see him be more consistent with the opportunities that he gets.”

While Broaddus provided one of the better scouting reports of Butler found on the interwebs, I do respectfully disagree with his assessment that Butler projects as a slot receiver as well as outside. The long-striding nature of Butler’s game, isn’t a great match inside, and while he can surely play occasional snaps there, he’s much better suited at the X or Z positions.

Dane Brugler at NFLDraftscout.com had this to say about Brice Butler’s 7th round draft position: “Butler has the size, straight-line speed, and leaping ability for the next level but hasn’t been able to pull it all together yet.”

It’s obviously a very small sample size but Bruce Butler seems to be pulling it all together these last few weeks of the season. If Dez Bryant is unable to go again in week 17 (honestly, there’s no reason to play the guy), Butler should see the bulk of the action at receiver again.

Maybe it’s the hamstring injury, maybe it’s the physical build, maybe it’s the big-play ability, or maybe it’s just wearing the number 19, but Brice Butler does have some similarities to that of Miles Austin. Both have strong lower bodies capable of breaking tackles and building speed for big plays. Both were talented players who were not highly regarded at the draft. And both took some time to develop in the NFL.

That sounds like an insult given what we know of what became of Mile Austin, but Austin was really a very good player before his hamstrings ruined his game. Speaking of which, try this throw-back article:

Sport DFW: Miles Austin Donates his Chronically Injured Hamstrings to Science

Frankly, the Dallas Cowboys could be so lucky if he turns into a Miles Austin 2.0 (with healthier hamstrings, that is). The good news is, Brice Butler is still under contract for another season, meaning the Dallas Cowboys will not be tempted to overpay to keep this offseason, like they did with Miles Austin after his much-more-impressive breakout season in 2009.

Coming off a career performance in Buffalo where Butler pulled in four catches for 74 yards as QB Kellen Moore’s favorite target on the day, Butler will only have one more chance to prove himself in 2015.

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On Sunday, he ran fairly clean and decisive routes. It appeared he ran one incorrectly, making the wrong coverage read and letting a potential big opportunity get away. But in the grand scheme of things one mistake isn’t bad bad given his inexperience, and for the most part, he had a solid day both mentally and physically. He showed plus speed, strong jump ball abilities, and soft hands (As discussed in yesterday’s film review, the INT was on Kellen Moore, not Butler).

"“He was big,” said offensive coordinator Scott Linehan. “We told Brice that it was his time, with where we were with Dez not being out there and him finally being healthy, to be a guy we can look to. I thought he did some really good things.”"

Next: Cowboys and Bills Film Review: The Young Players Shine

"“I think I can only go up from here,” Butler said. “I feel like I teased everybody earlier in the year by showing them a little something early, and then I got hurt and I was out for a while. I believe if I didn’t I would have been doing this all season.”"

With receiver one of the weakest units on the roster heading into the offseason, let’s hope Brice Butler can continue his success and answer some questions for the Dallas Cowboys in 2016.