Last year around this time, Butler was a rookie seventh round pick trying to stand out in a wide open receiver class. He made the team because he showed some potential, but he was not really a part of the Raiders attack, catching just nine passes all season.
This training camp, there's something different about Butler. He looks to have taken big leaps in his receiving skills. I wouldn't go as far as to say the difference is night and day, but it is very noticeable. His technique is clean, with little to no wasted movement. He looks passes into his hands and even Derek Carr's fastballs don't make much sound when they hit his hands.
Many NFL players take big steps forward in their second year because of what they learned from their first season in the NFL about how to best go about their business.
"it's just I know what to expect," said Butler. "I know what the coaches want, I know you have to be consistent daily. It's a job, it's not school. With a job you have to come to work every day, ready to perform. So, now I just know, everyday you have to come out here prepared to go to work and there's no off days. Every rep, every play, you have to go 100%."
The 6-3, 210 receiver has been working, that much was certain. But there is something different about his game that simply practicing wouldn't create. He wasn't just standing in front of a jugs machine, he was learning from two of the NFL's best receivers.
"(I) work out with Calvin Johnson, A.J. Green in Atlanta," Butler said. "Two best receivers in the game right now. . . just taking their wisdom, running routes with them, doing drills with them. It's always good to get with other guys that are doing it so you can see where you're at amongst the best."
"You got a guy like Calvin Johnson that's a physical freak, but he's very good coming out of his breaks for his size. You don't really get that many guys that are big that can come out their breaks and AJ Green's real quick and he's savvy. He's about 6-4 ½. Those guys, it's about footwork, being fundamentally sound, getting out of your breaks, keeping your shoulders square, keeping your pads down, since we're tall guys. So, just working with them is getting me ready to go."
That workout seems like one every receiver in the game today would want to take part in. Butler's ‘in' was because he has known AJ Green since back when both were top high school wide receiver recruits in the Southeast. Butler is from Atlanta and went off to USC, Green was from South Carolina and went to Georgia.
Since then, things have gone very different for Butler and Green. Green went on to become the best receiver in the country and was the fourth overall pick in the draft. Butler fell victim to Lane Kiffin at USC and was eventually forced to transfer to San Diego State to be given a fair shot. He fell off the radar for most teams and was taken in the seventh round of the draft.
Seeing Green go onto such success is likely quite a motivator for Butler. They were once on equal standing as recruits. Now Butler's tasked with fighting his way back up that ladder. Learning from the guys at the top of that ladder is the best way to do it.