New Orleans Saints Sophomore Spotlight: Stanley Jean-Baptiste
By John Hendrix
Last year, one of the most curious cases for the New Orleans Saints was cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste. The Saints used their second round selection (58th overall) on the Nebraska Cornhuskers project, and fans were excited at what he could potentially bring to the table. The comparisons were there as the next big thing. He was called Richard Sherman, Part II. Sean Payton clearly stated that he was their highest-rated prospect.
Jean-Baptiste didn’t have a lack of work to start, as he was on the field during the preseason. In fact, he actually was fourth highest on the team’s defense with 166 snaps. He rated +1.3 in pass coverage, and tied for third on the squad with 12 tackles.
In the regular season, it was a very different story. Jean-Baptiste saw action in just four games for the Saints, primarily on special teams. He participated in eight snaps all season, all against the Detroit Lions in Week 7. It was split right down the middle, four in pass coverage and four in run defense.
It became frustrating for many fans, and it was no different for the media. Week in and week out, Jean-Baptiste was a healthy inactive. It was often thought, is this guy really so bad that he can’t get on the field ahead of Corey White and Patrick Robinson?
You might think to yourself that Stanley Jean-Baptiste was a waste of a draft pick. That’s simply not the case. I begged and pleaded with fans not to pass judgement on SJB at the beginning of April.
"Here’s where I’d challenge your thought process. Look at Chicago’s Kyle Fuller, who the Saints were paired with in Mock Drafts last year, and Washington’s David Amerson.Fuller was a first round selection in 2014 (14th overall), and was immediately put into action, seeing 877 snaps. His Pro Football grade was terrible, second worst in the league at -18.4.Amerson was a second round selection in 2013 (51st overall – sound familiar?), and has graded poorly in both of his seasons. In 2013, he finished out 84th of 110 cornerbacks with a -5.0 grade on 694 snaps. In 2014, he finished as the league’s worst cornerback with a grade of -20.2 on 926 snaps.The moral of the story? Rushing a project like Jean-Baptiste isn’t the answer. That kind of play (or lack thereof) can destroy a player’s mindset, and that’s something the Saints know."
Veteran Brandon Browner and senior defensive assistant Dennis Allen are two of the best things that could have ever happened to Stanley Jean-Baptiste. There’s a lot to love about a cornerback who measures at 6-foot-3, and he now has two outstanding mentors to help him through the process of growing.
Jean-Baptiste has made an impact thus far by making some memorable plays in minicamp, and has said that he’s extremely confident and more comfortable heading into the new season.
"“It was hard [to be patient] because I wanted to play. Everyone wants to play. I didn’t know what the coaches were doing, but I understand it,” Jean-Baptiste said. “[Now] I’m just more relaxed, [have a] better understanding of the playbook. … I’m more confident, and I’m just flying around more.”"
There’s plenty of competition at the Saints cornerback position. Brandon Browner and Keenan Lewis figure to hold down the top spots, with Kyle Wilson and P.J. Williams set as the frontrunners for the nickel position. Duking it out for the backup cornerback positions will be Delvin Breaux, Brian Dixon, Terrance Frederick, Damian Swann, and Stanley Jean-Baptiste.
Based off of last year’s debacle, having this many options at cornerback isn’t exactly a bad thing. If he keeps up the work ethic and playmaking, Jean-Baptiste can easily find himself on the final 53-man roster.
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