Percy Butler made a positive impression before he even stepped on the field for the Washington Commanders.
"I think this is a guy that can help make an immediate impact for us," coach Ron Rivera said of the fourth-round pick prior to the Commanders' draft class arriving for rookie minicamp.
That was a good sign for the former Ragin' Cajun, but it also meant Butler would need to meet those lofty expectations. The belief is that the secondary will improve from the 2021 season, and as one of the few new additions to the group, he would need to get caught up quickly in order to contribute.
According to Bobby McCain, the rookie is taking things in stride.
"He's good, man. He's ready to learn," McCain told reports after Wednesday's OTA. "He picks it up fast."
Butler is one of the top candidates for the defense's Buffalo nickel position, and anyone curious about what that entails should look at what Kam Curl did in the role during the first two years of his career. The position demands players to be versatile; one play could require them to operate as more of an outside linebacker, while the other could see them lining up wide and covering tight ends or slot receivers.
The reason Curl was able to succeed as Washington's Buffalo nickel in 2020 and 2021 -- he recorded 187 tackles, nine pass breakups and three interceptions in that span -- was because he picked up the scheme quickly. From what McCain has seen, Butler is eager to learn as well.
"He doesn't make the same mistakes twice," McCain said. "And I told him, 'You need to keep doing that,' because in this league, if you don't make the same mistakes twice, you'll be successful."
From the time he was drafted by Washington with the 113th overall pick, Butler has shown that he has the right mindset for the Buffalo nickel position. He received a wave of attention when Chris Simms called him "the best pure safety in the draft," and naturally, he agrees with that assessment.
However, Butler rightly noted that the game is changing, and safeties are required to be more than just run stoppers.
"Even running backs got to be able to catch the ball now," Butler said. "You got to be able to tackle, but [also] be able to cover if you're going to be on the field. Because teams are getting receivers who are running 4.2's [40-yard dash] and all this and throwing bombs. It's a big play league so you got to be able to cover."
Buffalo nickel isn't the only spot Rivera expects Butler to compete for; the head coach wants to see him as their big nickel and a more traditional safety as well.
Either way, with the Commanders lining up in three safety looks about 53% of the time, according to Rivera, we should see a lot of Butler in 2022.
"Fifty-three percent of the snaps pretty much says you're a starter," Rivera said.
Of course, Butler is still a long way off from earning a starting spot. The Commanders are still working through OTAs with little to not contact. He's had a quiet couple of weeks, but then again, he doesn't need to start making noise until training camp in August.
For now, Butler's job is to learn and get acclimated to the system. So far, he's accomplished both of those goals.
"If [he] can continue to do what he's doing, he'll be just fine," McCain said.