The precise routes. The knack for finding openings in zone coverage. The ability to gain separation against man-to-man coverage. The way he uses his hands, rather than his body, to cradle the ball.
It’s just that one wanted to listen, because when your time of 4.38 seconds in the 40-yard dash was among the fastest at the scouting combine – and you’re all of 5 feet 10 and 182 pounds – it can be difficult to shake the “speed receiver” stereotype.
But what Butler has shown during training camp and in the team’s first two preseason games, it’s apparent that he is a receiver who is fast, rather than a fast guy trying to play receiver.
Butler’s ability to blur perception was apparent in the Seahawks’ 27-13 victory over the Denver Broncos at Qwest Field on Saturday night. Getting the start at split end because Nate Burleson is out with a tender hamstring, Butler caught but two passes.
Each, however, was noteworthy for different reasons.
The first was a 34-yard touchdown pass from Matt Hasselbeck that capped an eight-play, 70-yard drive to open the game – and flirted with being Joey Galloway-esque, as Butler used a dash of that speed to get behind Denver cornerback Andre Goodson; and then a pinch of some Steve Largent-like concentration to make the catch in the end zone after Goodson had recovered to present a thrashing machine of arms and hands at the point of the catch.
“The rookie went out there and got us going,” fellow receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh said. “He bombed a good corner and he got us going.”
Butler, however, was so locked in on the play that he won’t know just how impressive his run-and-catch was until he sees the video on Sunday.
“I had no clue to where (Goodson) was,” Butler said after the game. “I knew he was in press (coverage) at the line of scrimmage. Matt always tells us, ‘Feel free to alter to a go-route with press coverage.’ ”
When Goodson played Butler to the outside, the rookie went inside – and past the defender.
“Because of that, I had no clue where he was when I looked up for the ball,” Butler said. “It was just me tracking the ball.”
Despite Goodson being in position to disrupt the pass, if not knock it away?
“Nah, I had no clue where he was at all, to tell you the truth,” Butler said. “So I didn’t really know if I should jump for the ball or could I just really cradle it and let it come in.
“So I decided to let it cradle. Matt made a good throw, where only I could get to it.”
As good as the pass was, the memory that lingered even longer was the speed Butler used to run it down.
“That’s one of the things that we’re doing right now: We’re trying to learn each other,” Hasselbeck said. “We’ve got new receivers and a new offense.
“One of the things we do know about Deon Butler is that he’s fast. So we gave him an opportunity. He actually had a double coverage, and he just outran it and made a nice catch.”