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Rivera foresees Percy Butler having 'immediate impact' on defense

East defensive back Percy Butler, of Louisiana, (9) in coverage against the West during the East West Shrine Bowl football game at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, Thursday, Feb. 3, 2022. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan)

The Buffalo Nickel position for the Washington Commanders' defense has received a fair share of speculation this offseason in terms of who will play there, and it seems like the team might have a least part of the answer.

In a sitdown interview with senior vice president of media and content Julie Donaldson, Ron Rivera said that he foresees former Ragin' Cajun and fourth-round pick Percy Butler competing for the role, among others, this offseason.

"He'll be part of our buffalo and nickel packages," Rivera said. "He'll get an opportunity to play the nickel position. And when we go to big nickel, he could end up as the safety, or he could end up as the big nickel."

Butler, a 2021 second team All-Sun Belt selection, has been called "the best pure safety" in the 2022 draft class by NBC Sports' Chris Simms. He allowed a passer rating of 56.1 when targeted to go with a Pro Football Focus cover grade of 83.5.

Butler pairs that ability in coverage with a love for the physicality of the sport. His skillset, Rivera said during the Commanders' press conference to wrap up Day 3, is one that is "very intriguing" to the team.

"I think the biggest thing as far as his role is here's a guy that's gonna get an opportunity to compete," Rivera said.

Butler's presence allows the Commanders to continue using their three safety packages on defense, which Rivera said they used in 53% of their snaps. To Rivera, that means, at minimum, Butler would see that percentage of snaps as the third safety opposite Kamren Curl and Bobby McCain.

"We're gonna be able to continue to use our three-safety defense, a lot because of what his versatility, his speed, his quickness and his play smarts means," Rivera said. "So, we're pretty excited about this pick."

From what Butler showed at Louisiana, he should be able to handle the workload from a performance standpoint, in 866 career cover snaps with the Ragin' Cajuns, Butler only allowed one touchdown.

Butler has also shown an excitement for special teams, particularly on the punt team. Those are the kind of things Rivera likes to hear -- Rivera also said that Butler can help the Commanders on special teams -- but he doesn't want that to take too much time away from what Butler can add to the defense.

"Fifty-three percent of the snaps pretty much says you're a starter," Rivera said. "You've gotta be careful with those guys, too."

That doesn't mean Butler is locked into that spot. Rivera also pointed out that there are other players on the Commanders' roster who could also fill the Buffalo Nickel position. Butler does add to the mix, though, and he gives the Commanders another versatile player in an already multifaceted group.

No matter where he ends up playing, there are some high expectations for what Butler will be able to add to the team.

"I think this is a guy that can help make an immediate impact for us," Rivera said.

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