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Jets' Marshall on Pats' Butler: 'This kid can be special'

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When the New England Patriots cut ties with their top three cornerbacks in March, the assumption was that the coaching staff had high hopes for Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler.

Would the 2014 undrafted free agent hold his own while replacing All-Pro Darrelle Revis as Bill Belichick's No. 1 cover corner?

So far, so good.

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Butler has played all but five defensive snaps this season, often lining up against the opponent's top receiver.

"His role is that he's out on the field for almost every defensive play," Belichick said Monday, per CSN New England. "That's a big change from where it was last year. Malcolm's a good football player, and he's played very well for us both last year and this year. But given where we are in the secondary and the level of (his) improvement, I think no matter who we had on our team that he would be playing a lot of football for us."

That's a subtle, but noteworthy statement from Belichick. Even if the Patriots still had Revis and Brandon Browner on the roster, Butler would be playing a major role this season.

Although Pro Football Focus credits opposing quarterbacks with a passer rating of 119.8 in Butler's coverage, he has recorded six pass deflections and just missed several more on tightly contested touchdowns. He's holding his own against the league's best receivers.

"That's really a credit to him and how much he's improved from last year to this year," Belichick added. "He's a good football player. He's playing well. He does a lot of good things for us, and there's still a lot of room for him to improve. I don't think he's hit the peak, but he's getting better and I thought he played well (Sunday) night."

Butler made a big impression on Jets wideout Brandon Marshall last October, when the five-time Pro Bowler was still playing for the Bears.

"He came in and did a great job versus Alshon [Jeffery] on a couple of plays in that game," Marshall said Friday, via ESPN.com. "I was a little shocked. I was like, 'This kid can play a little bit.' I overlooked him when he was standing in front of me. He made a few plays and I'm like, 'This kid can be special.'"

"He's feisty," Marshall added. "He reminds me a lot of Buster [Skrine]. It's going to be tough to make plays on him. He has tremendous makeup speed, and he competes. He's tough."

Butler plays both sides of the Patriots defense, which means we will see plenty of one-on-one battles with Marshall on Sunday.

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