Since he joined the Cowboys as a fourth round pick in 2009, Victor Butler has been the team's number three outside linebacker. Being stuck behind DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer means he doesn't see a lot of action on the field. He played 158 snaps in 2010 and 123 snaps in 2009, mostly on third downs. But in his limited time, he has shown glimpses of potential and has been quite effective.
In Rob Ryan's defense, Butler may see a lot more playing time, and some observers have him as one candidate to be the Cowboys break out player on defense in 2012. Naturally, Butler is excited by the opportunities the new defensive scheme opens up for him, as are the fans: we've already seen plays in camp in which Butler and DeMarcus Ware have lined up next to each other as pass rushers, and the results weren't pretty for the QB.
Butler recently sat down with Brad Sham and Mickey Spagnola and his excitement was palpable as he talked about the new defensive scheme: "I love it. 'Like' is an understatement. I love it."
Read a transcript of the entire interview after the break, or watch it at dallascowboys.com.
Sham: We've read some reports that during the "down" period you'd had a little bit of an exposure with Rob, and now watching you out here on the field, we're of the opinion that we don't know of a defensive player who seems to be embracing this new defensive scheme more than you. You like it, don't you?
Butler: I love it. "Like" is an understatement. I love it.
It's a great scheme. [Rob Ryan] gets guys fired up. If you've got ability, he's going to play you. And when you've got a coach that trusts in you, it makes you want to go out there and perform better. It makes you want to hit the playbook harder, because now you've got people counting on you to be accountable. As a football player, as a competitor, that's what you want. You want to be held accountable.
Spagnola: One of the things that I've noticed watching that's involved you ... when you guys go to nickel, it's like a fire drill. There's guys all over the place. One of the main guys is you, lining up inside, sometimes next to Jay Ratliff.
Butler: Yeah. I've got to eat my meat and potatoes now. That 3-technique is a whole other world, man. I take my hat of to Jay Ratliff for getting down there and getting dirty with those guys. Because one wrong step and you'll go to the sidelines - and not your sideline.
Spagnola: So what's the idea with putting you there? Is it that they don't know if you're rushing, you're dropping in coverage? And you're a little bit undersized to be taking on 330 lb. guards.
Butler: Yeah, they said that in college too. I like it.
The basic concept is to create mismatches. I'm way smaller, but I'm also way faster. When you have those kinds of mismatches, you've got to double-team somebody. Maybe you take a double team off DeMarcus Ware. And everybody knows, when you take a double team off DeMarcus Ware, there aren't that many guys in the NFL that can block that guy one-on-one. Then you've got Anthony Spencer moving around, Jay Ratliff sometimes coming off the edge...
When you create mismatches like that, it's hard for an offense to check down to an audible or run a play that they want to run when you've got DeMarcus Ware lining up at safety coming down and rushing the A-gap and Ratliff routing to the C-gap.
Sham: You said earlier, one wrong step and you'll get knocked to the sidelines. How important is every single step at this level of football?
Butler: As you get older - high school, college - everybody gets faster, everybody gets better. If you're a receiver and you run a 7-route and it takes you 20 steps to run it in high school, at this level you'll probably run it in 10. So the less steps you can take on everything you do, that's how you get interceptions.
If it takes you eight steps to get to the ball: interception. Ten Steps? Maybe a pass break-up. Eleven steps? Now he scores.
That's the same thing with rushing the passer: the least amount of steps possible. So they try to put you in positions to win. If you want to be in a 3-technique, don't line up in a 4-technique. Line up in the 3, because the 3 is going to get you to the quarterback in the least amount of time. And for sacks, that's what you want.
Spagnola: The first time they told you, "Be ready to put your hand on the ground, inside," what was your reaction to that?
Butler: I did a couple of push-ups, grabbed a couple of protein shakes and said, "I'm ready to do it, Coach!" Like I told him, "You want me to kick the ball on the field? I'm down. As long as I'm out there."