When the Cowboys traded for receiver Brice Butler last offseason, fans weren’t really sure what to expect. Butler only got limited opportunities in Oakland so there wasn’t much for fans to go off of. It was clear the Cowboys were banking on his potential. Well, Butler certainly showed that he has plenty of potential in 2015, despite some difficult circumstances (new offense, multiple QB changes, injures).
"I want to have a big role next year,'' Butler tells me.
I can see it. In fact, he showed so much potential last year that many fans think he has a shot at stealing away the No. 2 wide receiver job from Terrance Williams.
I must say, as I speak to Butler and look at the circumstances, I could see that happening and I’ll give you 3 reasons why…
1. Butler may be more physically capable than Williams. I understand that Williams has a strong chemistry with Tony Romo but there’s no denying that his play is inconsistent. Butler is taller, bigger, longer and faster than Williams, plus he actually catches with his hands. Here are their measurables side-by-side:
Weight: 208 lbs.
Arm Length: 31 1/4”
40-Yard Dash: 4.52 sec.
Vertical Jump: 32.5”
Broad Jump: 9’11”
3-Cone Drill: 7.01 sec.
20-Yard Shuttle: 4.32 sec.
Weight: 215 lbs.
Arm Length: 34”
40-Yard Dash: 4.37 sec.
Vertical Jump: 39”
Broad Jump: 10’9”
3-Cone Drill: 6.70 sec.
20-Yard Shuttle: 4.40 sec.
As you can see, Butler beats out Williams in every area except for the 20-yard shuttle. Not only that, Butler would’ve been in the top 5 among all receivers at the 2013 combine in the 40-yard dash, vertical jump, broad jump and 3-cone drill. In fact, his 40-yard dash would’ve been 6th best among all players.
However, that’s not the only reason I think Butler can be a standout contributor in 2016.
2. Tony Romo has a history of helping turn unknown WR’s into stars (see Miles Austin and Laurent Robinson). Butler fits that bill and is the kind of receivers that Romo loves: Big and fast with great hands. Butler understands how much of a difference Tony Romo makes for himself and the rest of the team.
“I only played with Tony for half a game (Week 2 in Philadelphia) but Tony Romo is Tony Romo,” Butler tells CowboysHQ in an exclusive 1-on-1 interview. "I’ve liked him for a long time. He takes command of everything, tells everyone where to be and puts the ball right on the money every time. It makes a huge difference when you’re playing with the guy who created the offense versus playing with a guy who is new to it and trying to learn it on the fly. I’m excited about the opportunity to play with Tony more this year.”
In a sense, Butler put up some impressive numbers in 2015. He only had 12 catches but 6 of them were for 20+ yards - that’s the highest rate among all WR’s on the team. He was also one of just 3 WR’s in the NFL who had 6+ catches of 20+ yards but less than 20 catches in 2015. Butler also made the longest reception for the Cowboys all season, a 67-yard bomb from Brandon Weeden vs the Saints. Butler averaged a career-high 21.5 yards per catch last year and had the 2nd highest YPC among all WR’s in the NFL with at least 10 catches. All of that without Tony Romo. Just imagine what he could do with No/ 9 under center. What a treat it would be to see him having a 2009 Miles Austin/2011 Laurent Robinson type season.
As for the 3rd reason I think he could break out this season…
3. A healthy Dez Bryant opens up the entire offense. When Dez is in the game, defenses have to zero in on stopping him. He almost always is facing double coverage, which helps free up everyone else. That means Butler -- again, assuming he finds a way to steal snaps away from T-Will (who we don't mean to bash here) would get paired up against the opposing team’s 2 or 3 CB in 1-on-1 coverage. I like that matchup for the Cowboys. I’m not the only one, either.
“Dez is a great teammate,” Butler says. "He’s a very passionate guy who puts it all on the line every day. When you got a guy like Dez in the room and you see his passion for the game, it rubs off on you. There are some guys that go to work that are just doing a job and then there are guys where it’s life or death. That’s Dez. He brings that passion out in you and makes you give even more effort. It elevates the level of play of everyone else. We’re all big competitors so when you see Dez out there making plays you think, 'I want to be making those plays too.' You wanna make plays like he does.”
Jerry Jones recently said that he’s happy with the team’s offseason moves thus far but he said the biggest improvements will come from within - meaning a healthy Tony Romo and Dez Bryant. The Cowboys had a lot of close games in 2015 but were unable to seal the deal without their two best players.
Brice Butler shares that same sentiment.
“Dez and Tony will be huge factors in getting us back to the playoff-caliber team that we are,” says Butler. "Four QB changes affects you most at the end of games. When we needed to score or run out the clock, it’s tough when you have a new QB in there that can’t do the two-minute offense like Tony can. When we played Miami, we closed the game out. They closed the game out versus the Giants in Week 1 and we did it versus Philly in my first game. That’s the advantage that Tony gives you. And Dez, he lights up the scoreboard and definitely makes a huge difference in the clutch. The biggest thing will be having our QB out there though.”
Clearly, Butler has high expectations for this team in 2016. However, I wonder what he expects of himself. After all, many fans are expecting him to have a big season. Does Butler have that same expectation?
“First of all, I want to stay healthy all year,” says Butler. "Last year was a bummer because it was the first time that I’ve ever had to miss games due to injury. It was tough for me to pull my hammy like I did early in the year and be out for most of the season. I just want to learn the system and grasp the offense even more. I believe I’m a playmaker that can stretch the field but I can also make short catches and make a play get yards after the catch. I want to have a big role next year. I want to get a lot of targets and make a lot of plays.”
If Butler is able to live up to those expectations he has for himself, the Cowboys will have found themselves a weapon.