It’s almost go time for the New Orleans Saints, and we can only hope that the same applies to safety Jairus Byrd.
Let’s be blatantly honest for a second. As a Saints fan, it’s hard to mention the name Jairus Byrd and not start throwing up a little inside your mouth. After shelling out $54 million for the widely considered top free agent prize of 2014, how could you not have some buyer’s remorse right now for a player that’s only appeared in just 17 of 32 games?
In 2015, Byrd appeared in 825 snaps (or 76 percent) for the New Orleans Saints defense. He finished with 52 total tackles, a sack, interception, forced fumble, and fumble recovery. Byrd also was credited with three pass breakups. The lone interception of Byrd’s Saints tenure came in Week 12 against the Houston Texans. Needless to say, that’s not anything what anyone expected.
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The unsolved mystery of what Byrd will bring to the table in 2016 is something no one will come to a definitive conclusion to. While I don’t believe it’s entirely fair to place sole blame on Byrd’s woes, this season’s defensive shift favors the veteran safety. However, will he make it to that point? Byrd sat out the Saints offseason program with knee soreness, which caused a good bit of uproar in itself.
The first step for Byrd’s return is a simple one, and that’s getting on the field. With a player who has had a history of back and knee issues, that’s honestly all you can ask for to begin with. Some good news from Monday afternoon? Byrd wasn’t on the PUP list to start training camp. Byrd may not find himself being ‘the guy’ in drills to start, even if he is optimistic on his status for training camp. However, you’re going to see a lot of hot takes regardless of whether he is or isn’t on the field. He’s going to be under a microscope for dissection.
The 3-safety set is something the Saints have tried to install since 2014 after experimenting with it in 2013, but have largely failed. The 4-2-5 base defense, which is what is typically used for this setup (could be 3-3-5 on passing downs), would likely have Kenny Vaccaro as the free roamer, Roman Harper as the starting strong safety, and presumably Jairus Byrd as the free safety. Naturally, to execute this you’re going to need healthy safeties.
At some point, Byrd has to get tired of answering the questions of his health and on the field play. This is a big season for the ex-Buffalo Bills sensation, and anything less than ‘good’ could cause the Saints to make another costly decision during the offseason. Ultimately, it’s up to Byrd to silence the critics, which are vast these days.