A costly injury for Seattle could be a golden opportunity.
During training camp and the preseason I sung the praises of Deon Butler, the rookie wide receiver out of Penn State. Buried on the depth chart, Butler hasn’t put up big-time numbers this season, but he could get his chance to start turning heads now that he’s the team’s third receiver.
Butler took over the responsibilities last week once it was decided veteran Deion Branch would fill in as the team’s second starter at receiver due to a high ankle sprain that has potentially ended the season for Nate Burleson.
Coming into Week 15 as the new regular third receiver, Butler had 11 catches with just four during the previous four weeks. The rookie receiver stepped up Week 15 at home against Tampa Bay and hauled in three balls from quarterback Matt Hasselbeck.
What’s important to take away from last weekend was that it was the second consecutive week that Butler had six targets, three catches and at least thirty receiving yards.
With just two weeks left in the season, Butler has the opportunity to build on his increased involvement in the offense and further his development and stat totals thanks to two interesting matchups.
This weekend, he’ll face the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. While the Packers tout the National Football League’s second best overall defense, Green Bay’s secondary is the team’s weak spot.
The Packers lost starting cornerback Al Harris earlier this season due to an injury and were faced with a domino-effect situation with their depth chart. With two other defensive backs on Injured Reserve, the Packers had to promote Tramon Williams from nickel back to Al Harris’ spot, Jarrett Bush from the team’s dime back to William’s nickel spot and mid-season pickup Josh Bell to the dime. While Williams has considerable experience thanks to his 18 starts during the past three seasons, Bush and Bell don’t, totaling just eight starts between them over the past four.
Last week Bush and Bell’s inexperience was exploited by Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Roethlisberger threw for 503 yards and three touchdowns, taking the Steelers’ single-game record for most passing yards. Roethlisberger took advantage of Bush, by completing passing plays of 60, 54 and 20 yards against the fourth-year man out of Utah State. The 60-yarder to rookie speedster Mike Wallace was the Steelers’ first pass play of the game and went for a score. Bell, a second-year player from Baylor, botched coverage during the game’s final play as Roethlisberger hit a diving Wallace along the left side of the end zone for the game-tying score with no time left. The ensuing Jeff Reed extra point gave the Steelers a 37-36 victory.
After the Packers, Deon Butler and the Seahawks head to Tennessee to take on a Titans team that ranks among the league’s worst in overall defense and gives up the second most passing yards per game.
At 5-foot-10 Butler isn’t a giant, but his speed, like that of Pittsburgh’s Mike Wallace; his ability to make the tough catch over the middle of the field and the relentless tenacity he displays when going up for a ball in traffic and coming down wrestling for possession are invaluable assets to have in Seattle’s receiving corps and will be things that will help put him in favorable situations over the next two weeks.