New Orleans Saints cornerbacks: From weakness to strength
By Jake White
As bad as the New Orleans Saints were last year, the cornerback position stood out as the weakeast. The corners lacked depth and got exposed more so than not last year. The defense lacked both leadership and chemistry a season ago. Many times players were out of position or just were not doing a good job of covering. Missed tackles and blown coverages highlighted the secondary’s mishaps. With a handful of new additions to the unit, expect a different outcome in 2015.
Keenan Lewis and Brandon Browner on the outside may very well transform into a top-five tandem in the NFL. Lewis plays like a top-ten cornerback and was one of the only bright spots from last year’s defense. I can see Lewis making his first Pro Bowl appearance this year, which is indeed way overdue. Browner can bring leadership and a veteran attitude to the secondary that was missing in 2014. This two-time Super Bowl champion has tons of experience and hopefully can rub off some of his tendencies and hard hitting mentality on the younger corners.
The biggest difference from last year to this year is the depth at cornerback. Delvin Breaux is a name Saints fans may want to start paying attention to. The 25-year-old is a big long corner that should fit right in on Rob Ryan’s defense. He will be a rookie in the NFL, but was an all-star in the Canadian Football League. I expect Breaux to start at the nickel position.
Next, we have two additional rookies in P.J. Williams and Damian Swann. Both are very good at press man and should have no trouble making the 53-man roster. Williams is an athletic long corner who is very versatile and can play on the outside and in the slot. He is a great tackler and pretty good when blitzing as well. Swann is a play-making corner who could surprise some people this preseason with his outstanding athleticism.
Of course, Stanley Jean-Baptiste is the mystery corner who we will know more about once we see how far he has progressed since last year after seeing VERY LIMITED time. He has talent and size, but when drafted, the New Orleans Saints staff knew he’d be a project and take some time transitioning as a former wide receiver. I thought last year SJP should have been thrown in more situations just to get some experience under his belt. Having Browner ahead of him and teaching him the ropes could help him out tremendously.
Free agent acquisition Kyle Wilson probably could have started had he played with the Saints a season ago, but with all the new depth, he’ll need to bring his A-game at training camp and preseason to make the final cut this year. As a former first-round pick in 2010, Wilson has the potential and experience to play at nickel, but if Breaux wins the spot then I think Wilson will be the odd man out when it’s it time to do the roster trimming.
Terrence Frederick and Brian Dixon are both young and have some potential, but with the depth the Saints have at corner, it is going to be a an uphill battle from start to finish at training camp.
When looking at the New Orleans Saints’ corners from last year compared to the ones on the team this year, there is a huge disparity for the better. All the corners the Saints have now are physical, which will be needed since New Orleans is in a division with the likes of Julio Jones, Vincent Jackson, Mike Evans and Kelvin Benjamin. Expect Rob Ryan to use a great deal of man-to-man and press coverage with all these tall and long corners. If the secondary can stay healthy, I see them being a major strength for the Saints compared to a weak unit a season ago.
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