There’s only three groups for us left to preview for the New Orleans Saints before we reach training camp this week, and today’s focus is on the cornerbacks.
The Saints secondary hit a new low after surrendering an NFL record 45 passing touchdowns in 2015. It’s not like it was even a close race, as the next highest time was the Philadelphia Eagles with 36 allowed. Injuries plagued the secondary again, and Brandon Browner became the most hated man in black and gold, as he was the equivalent of burnt toast.
Attention was paid, and the Saints made some moves to get some contenders in the building. The secondary is mainly highlighted by younger players, but that can be an incredibly good thing for Dennis Allen. Let’s also not forget that the team added former great Aaron Glenn as their defensive backs coach to help mold these players. Let’s take a look at what he has to work with.
Keenan Lewis, 8th season
Keenan Lewis is arguably coming off the worst season of his professional career, as he only appeared in 6 games for the New Orleans Saints and underwent three separate surgical procedures in 2015. However, that has only fueled Lewis’ determination to perform this season, and he’s publicly stated that he fully intends to rebound. It was a good sign to see Lewis participating in OTAs, and if Lewis can return to form, then it instantly upgrades the Saints’ chances on defense.
Delvin Breaux, 2nd season
What more can be said about the emergence of Delvin Breaux that already hasn’t been said? For a defense that didn’t have many bright spots, Breaux was the exception. For someone who almost didn’t get a chance to play football because of a life-threatening neck injury, the 26-year-old made the most of his opportunity. According to Pro Football Focus, Breaux allowed a reception on every 13.5 snaps he was on the field, which was ninth-best among all cornerbacks in the NFL. The Saints defense needs Delvin Breaux, who could be in for a very hefty payday when the time comes.
P.J. Williams, 2nd season
The top contender for the team’s No. 2 cornerback slot is none other than P.J. Williams, who has a serious opportunity knocking for him heading into training camp. Williams looked good during minicamp and OTAs, and head coach Sean Payton mentioned that he was ‘a lot farther along than expected’. If there’s any player than can put to bed the large draft whiff on Stanley Jean-Baptiste from 2014, it’s Williams.
Damian Swann, 2nd season
Damian Swann‘s season was riddled with three concussions, which is a fairly scary thing to endure as a rookie. With veteran Kyle Wilson placed on injured reserve, Swann has a real opportunity to see more playing time. The former Georgia Bulldog certainly believes that the concussion problems are behind him, and he can offer a lot for Dennis Allen’s defense when he’s called upon.
Tony Carter, 6th season
When Damian Swann was ruled out for the season in December, the Saints added veteran Tony Carter to the mix. Carter, who just turned 30 in May, has been in the league since 2009. He’s more of a special teams guy, but can also double as a slot corner. Fun fact, Carter recently held his annual camp in mid-July.
Brian Dixon, 3rd season
Entering his third season, you probably wouldn’t think Brian Dixon has appeared in all 32 games for the black and gold over the past two years. Dixon’s primary value is on special teams, but he appeared in 112 snaps (10 percent) of the team’s defensive snaps in 2015. Despite being familiar with the organization and scheme, Dixon will see legitimate competition for his spot from some of the younger guys.
Brandon Dixon, 2nd season
Brandon Dixon has reunited with his twin brother to play football for the New Orleans Saints. The two played college football at Northwest Missouri State, but obviously took separate paths on their football journey. While Brian stood out as an undrafted rookie free agent, Brandon didn’t have as much success. The former sixth-round pick of New York Jets saw 14 games of action as a rookie, but it was with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after he was promoted from the practice squad. Brandon, like his brother, is a hard worker who should turn some heads.
Ken Crawley, Colorado
Colorado’s Ken Crawley is one of the many men in the NFL who looks to overcome a haunting past. The 6-foot corner started all four years for the Buffaloes, and offers a good combination of speed and size. Like many young corners, Crawley’s game needs some fine tuning to turn into something. However, there’s a lot to love about what he can bring to the table from his technique and athleticism. Not to mention, he’s someone who will carry a chip on his shoulder, which is always that ‘it’ factor you look for.
De’Vante Harris, Texas A&M
If there’s one undrafted rookie free agent the Saints gained this offseason that can legitimately threaten for a roster spot, it’s De’Vante Harris. The former SEC corner may only be 5-foot-11, but that never scared him facing the likes of 6-foot plus wide outs Laquon Treadwell, Cody Core, De’Runnya Wilson, and Dorial Green-Beckham. With Kyle Wilson out of the mix, the team’s fifth option is very open. When it’s all said and done, you might just hear Harris’ name mentioned a few times.
Jimmy Pruitt, San Jose State
I get this really good vibe for Jimmy Pruitt, and he’s someone no one is talking about right now. The former Spartans corner didn’t instantly latch on with the Saints, as it took a rookie minicamp to get the team to add him. Pruitt caught the eye of Houston Texans analyst John Harris in the prior week’s minicamp.
"A guy on a tryout that really shocked me that he didn’t get drafted, much less signed as an undrafted free agent, was San Jose State corner Jimmy Pruitt. During 1-on-1’s against Fuller, he stayed right in his hip pocket and knocked the ball away on a deep in route."
Pruitt is a true press corner, and allowed only one touchdown on his last 103 targets with San Jose State. Call him my dark horse to make some roster noise, and he’s already taken to some of Roman Harper’s leadership.