New Orleans Saints’ young cornerbacks must step up in Keenan Lewis’ absence


The New Orleans Saints preseason has been up and down so far, but more down than up, especially after the news yesterday of star cornerback Keenan Lewis being sideline for 4-6 weeks with an apparent hip injury. To add to the loss at the corner position, third round rookie P.J. Williams was placed on season-ending injured reserve with a torn hamstring. Not exactly what the Saints or their fans were hoping for this preseason.

With that being said, there was some good news that came out, and that was Brandon Browner should be ready to suit up Week 1, which is an even bigger deal now with the Lewis injury.  So the question is, who is going to replace Keenan Lewis while he is out? I think it will take a group effort and not just one person.  That group will consist of rookies Delvin Breaux and Damian Swann, and second-year CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste, who only saw eight snaps in his rookie season a year ago.  The three corners haven’t had much playing time in the regular season.  All of them will see an expanded amount of work than most anticipated.

Breaux will most likely have to step up and start on the outside opposite of Browner.  Breaux has been a pleasant surprise coming from the Canadian Football League.  So far, he seems to be transitioning into the NFL with no problem. Besides a minor injury early in camp, he has been very productive and is going to need to keep it up with the regular season about to begin.  Like most of the New Orleans Saints corners, he is a big man who can be physical up at the line of scrimmage.  He will be thrown into the fire a little bit earlier than expected, but I have a good feeling he is up for the test.

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Next is the former wide receiver turned corner, Stanley Jean-Baptiste.  Some people had him not even making the team before camp started, but as camp progressed he began to change their minds.  He is very talented, and with a year under Rob Ryan’s defense, he should be able to play faster and not have to think as much.  He has shown significant improvement from last year to this year, which is exactly what the New Orleans Saints were hoping for when they drafted him in the second round in 2014.  He has all the intangibles of being a good corner — long, tall, not afraid to come up and tackle, very athletic, and seems to want to learn. I think once he gets used to playing corner and gets some experience, he could wind up a solid NFL defensive back.  I’m just worried he may be rushed into it now with the injury to Lewis.  However, injuries are a part of football though, and with a year under his belt and Lewis down for the count, it’s time for Jean-Baptiste to prove his worth after a year of developing.

Last is the rookie out of the University of Georgia, Damian Swann.  Aggressive is the word that comes to my mind when I think of him, but sometimes maybe too aggressive.  Swann had a nice interception in the New Orleans Saints preseason opnenr, but penalties have been an issue — rookie mistakes.  He is an athletic corner who has good ball skills, but he just tends to hold onto his receivers a little too much.  That’s something that can be fixed as he adapts to the rules of the NFL.  I’m thinking Swann will be the starting nickel for the Saints, and that can be both a good and bad thing.  Young players tend to get down on themselves for making a bad play, which often causes them to make more mistakes. Swann is going to need to have a shot-term memory while playing.  He is going to give up some plays, but it’s about how he does on the next play that will define him as a player.  I think Swann is up for the challenge at nickel and could be a core player for the Saints defense for years to come.

The secondary, as a whole, has had some key injuries so far, yet, I still think the unit should see improvement from a season ago. The additions of Browner and Breaux are key. Browner is a great leader and will help tremendously with the young corners and their development. Breaux helps give depth at the position for certain formations and when injuries happen, and so far, that has been the case.  With everything being said, Lewis is a key member of the defense and it’s going to hurt the Saints by not having him. Luckily, he is only out for 4-6 weeks.  New Orleans hopes to have him back sooner rather than later.

Next: Saints CB Keenan Lewis out 4-6 weeks

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