Three and Out: Butler's progression; Banged up D-Line; Wilson slipping
Last summer, Rod Streater (left) burst onto the scene. This year, Brice Butler is making a case for a roster spot. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
Brice Butler catches a 30-yard touchdown pass during a preseason game against the Cowboys on Friday, Aug. 9, 2013. (AP)
NAPA – Rod Streater knows exactly what Brice Butler is going through.
The second-year receiver was the talk of last year’s training camp, an unheralded rookie done good enough to make the 53-man roster and contribute in the passing game.
Two big catches in Friday night’s preseason opener and now Butler’s looked at in the same vein. Can he be this year’s Rod Streater? Time will tell.
Early comparisons suggest yes. Both run smooth routes, have surprising agility and laid-back dispositions. Neither posted big numbers while at second-tied schools. Neither warranted a high draft pick and neither started their rookie camp in high regard.
“We talk about the similarities all the time,” Streater said. “We had the same college career, even down to the stats. I just told him that he can still make his way in the league as long as he stays focused.
“Before the game I told Brice that, with a couple injuries and a couple guys out, he was going to have a chance. I was just happy to see the improvement in his game, and that he showed in a game. That was a big moment for him.”
It can’t be the only one. Butler has to show more than two athletic grabs to be considered a roster candidate.
“If I play terrible (next game), nobody’s going to remember last week,” Butler said. “I just have to keep working.”
His hard work to this point has paid off. He’s risen from the bottom of the depth chart during this camp, and shown significant improvement during his time in Napa.
“Make no mistake about it; he’s been a nice surprise,” coach Dennis Allen said. “When you get a seventh-round draft pick like that who’s really developed, that’s a good thing to have but at the same time, I don’t want him reading too much of his press clippings and start feeling too good about himself. He’s still a rookie. He still has a long way to go, but he’s off to a nice start.”
Overconfidence won’t be an issue for Butler. He acknowledges making quality decisions on a 40-yard reception with significant yards after the catch and doesn’t deny the difficulty required in a diving 30-yard grab hauled in with his fingertips, but he knows he didn’t play a perfect game either.
“I honestly don’t think I played that well,” Butler said. “Until those two plays, I didn’t feel good about my play at all. Watching tape, there are a lot of stuff I can work on. I have to build on this.”
Streater certainly did. He earned a roster spot with an excellent preseason, played in all 16 regular-season games and improved his statistics as the season went on.
Streater drew the blueprint, and Butler has to follow it.
“You have to do everything possible to stand out,” Streater said. “When you make a mistake, they just look at is as expected because you’re an undrafted guy. You have to make every play that comes to you and do everything well. It’s difficult, but you have to be near perfect.”