Checking in: Delvin Breaux
By Ty Anania
Delvin Breaux has been back from injury now for a few weeks. Well, Who Dat Dish has gone under the hood to take a measured look at how Breaux has played since returning from injury. And despite the occasional reception, the returns look good.
At first, I thought Delvin Breaux was struggling more than I expected. To my in-game, casual eye-test, he seemed to be not yet the player he was in 2015. But that expectation may be indicative of something I, and I expect many other Saints fans, are guilty of.
The real story of the review is that Breaux is still a bonafide lockdown corner, and that this defense still needs more help than I’d been willing to admit earlier in the year.
Yes, Breaux gave up some big receptions against the Broncos, including the go-ahead touchdown to Demaryius Thomas. But for the most part, he was every bit as advertised. He shadowed Thomas throughout the contest, and despite a few plays given up in zone coverage, Breaux held Thomas in check. And Thomas is no slouch. That’s a big, strong, agile receiver, and Breaux was consistently either jamming him at the line or running step for step with him downfield.
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Against the Rams, Delvin Breaux had another very solid game. He continues to show outstanding lateral quickness, which allows him to both play with the field in front of him and still mirror his receiver. And Dennis Allen clearly felt comfortable leaving the CFL star in single coverage without safety help. And that’s with Breaux shadowing the Rams’ most dangerous receiver, Kenny Britt. Not that Britt is necessarily an elite threat. But it goes to show that Breaux is allowing the defense to play a more multiple and versatile game.
His only real blemishes against the Rams were the second quarter touchdown and bad whiff on an early first quarter reception. And against the Broncos, it’s really hard to fault him for any play. Even on Thomas’s late-game touchdown, Breaux did about all he could against a receiver of that size. Siemian made a great throw, and Thomas made a great catch. It does document perhaps the one thing that Breaux hasn’t quite returned to form with, and that’s his LoS jamming, which last year was truly elite. And he’s still one of the best in the league in that respect.
So how did he fail to live up to my expectations?
Well, I think that’s somewhat simple. I had overblown expectations for what a lockdown corner could do to this defense.
When Breaux came back, along with Dannell Ellerbe, I expected to see a whole new defense, capable of holding teams to minimal points and of causing turnovers with effective and multiple defensive schemes. Well, the defense has certainly been improved since then. And I’d venture to so far as to say that this defense is now actually respectable.
But I’m surprised to realize just how optimistic I was about the unit. I really thought that, once healthy, it could be one of the best in the league. But the fact of the matter is that there are just too many filler players in the starting lineup.
Not that B.W. Webb is a bad player, or Craig Robertson, or Jairus Byrd, and Nick Fairley. In fact, each of those players are very talented. I’m happy to have them in black and gold, and even happy to see them starting. The problem is that, on a unit filled with players of that level, you need to see some gamebreaking talent elsewhere. And the Saints just don’t have enough of that.
Dannell Ellerbe can cover ground phenomenally, and he’s far and away the team’s best LB. But he’s no gamebreaker. Kenny Vaccaro is a great open-field and pressure player. But there are a lot of talented LBs and safeties in this league.
The only truly exceptional talent on the defense is Cam Jordan and Delvin Breaux. And, no matter how well these players play, this defense will give up some points.
Next: Championship Saturday: 10 players the Saints might want to look at
Don’t get me wrong: I love this roster and I believe in Dennis Allen. I think, with some more solid FA additions and possibly some youth development, that this could be a truly dangerous unit in 2017. But it’s just not there yet.