Top 10 New Orleans Saints to watch at training camp: No. 1, Jairus Byrd
The New Orleans Saints spent a fortune (6-year/$54M, $28M guaranteed) on elite safety Jairus Byrd a season ago, but unplanned occurrences happen frequently in the National Football League. It’s understood that it’s a part of the sport. The standout with the Buffalo Bills — missed time in 2013 — would miss a majority of the season in 2014 after suffering a brutal knee injury his first year in the Crescent City.
However, 2015 is a new year, and Jairus Byrd looks to rebound in hopes of becoming a Pro Bowl caliber safety once again, beginning this summer at training camp. Unfortunately, the Saints made several transactions Tuesday afternoon, including the placement of Byrd on the physically unable to perform list.
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Again, he suffered a season-ending knee injury last October, and while he has been cleared to play by doctors, he was still limited at organized team activities and minicamp. His placement on the PUP could just be for precautionary purposes. Maybe a bit more rest before the pads come on? Still, the news is somewhat discouraging for Saints fans after the team spent all that money on Jairus Byrd for him to watch from the sideline.
Some good news — a player can be taken off the PUP at anytime. So, if the ball hawk is to be cleared by Sean Payton and company, he instantly becomes one of the most intriguing competitors at training camp, which is why he lands at No. 1 on the list.
Jairus Byrd will be looking to return to elite form in hopes of solidifying that potentially dangerous secondary down on the bayou with Keenan Lewis, fellow safety Kenny Vaccaro and a newly acquired corner in Brandon Browner.
Byrd has everything you want from a safety — speed, power, burst, ball skills, hands, outstanding coverage and run stop abilities, and a strong work ethic. Injury aside, we didn’t see all of that from Jairus Byrd in his first four games as a Saint. He was still adjusting to new surroundings, particularly defensive coordinator Rob Ryan‘s scheme.
However, his numbers were improving game by game. The unfortunate lateral meniscus tear never gave Saints fans a real chance to witness Byrd’s true talents firsthand.
From 2009 to 2013, Jairus Byrd led all safeties in the NFL with 22 interceptions. With some added weapons in the secondary, another full training camp to acclimate, and the return of Dennis Allen (Saints secondary coach during the team’s Super Bowl run) to the Big Easy as a senior defensive assistant, it’s looking good, that is, if Byrd can remain healthy.
He’s a special athlete with special football abilities and instincts. He’s equipped with all the right tools, a winning attitude, a strong work ethic, and an excellent coaching and training staff to help him make the recovery. Still, it’s a shame the organization spent so much money on what seems to be a liability.
I guess all I can say is the potential is there for Jairus Byrd. Health is his biggest concern and will be something to monitor this summer, hands down. But if he can return from the PUP list sooner rather than later, he is certainly a top prospect to watch at training camp.