Saints: Five brave predictions for 2017

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Jan 1, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) (left) greets New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) after the Falcons defeated the New Orleans Saints at the Georgia Dome. The Falcons defeated the Saints 38-32. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 1, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) (left) greets New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) after the Falcons defeated the New Orleans Saints at the Georgia Dome. The Falcons defeated the Saints 38-32. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports /
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Oct 10, 2015; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Utes defensive back Marcus Williams (20) moves in to intercept a pass intended for California Golden Bears wide receiver Kenny Lawler (4) during the first quarter at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 10, 2015; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Utes defensive back Marcus Williams (20) moves in to intercept a pass intended for California Golden Bears wide receiver Kenny Lawler (4) during the first quarter at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports /

Marcus Williams supplants Vonn Bell in the base defense.

Saints sophomore Vonn Bell projects to start in Jairus Byrd’s role in the base defense alongside Kenny Vaccaro. But rookie Marcus Williams is the better fit in Byrd’s role, and complements Vaccaro more completely. By the end of the season, Williams will have earned the starting job. And that’s no knock on Bell.

The Saints are going to play a lot of different defensive schemes over the course of the year. Dennis Allen likes to gameplan for each team and to roll out the coverages that he thinks best fit the day. Sometimes that means we’ll see three safeties on first down. But more often than not, it will be two. Especially with the improvements at linebacker.

Marcus Williams is exactly the player the Saints thought they were getting in Jairus Byrd way back when.

For all the hype that Malik Hooker got this year at the top of the safety board, Williams is not far behind as a prospect. He covers the back of the field with the best of them, and has the hands to emerge as one of the best play-making safeties in the league. Pairing him with Kenny Vaccaro is a dream-scenario.

Williams’s biggest weakness as a player is his ability in run support. But that’s Vaccaro’s biggest strength. With Vaccaro playing the money-backer role in the box and in the slot, Williams is free to patrol the back end of the field and feast on whatever deep-ball opposing quarterbacks try to sneak by the Saints suddenly dangerous CBs.

Vonn Bell is a great prospect. He has versatility that neither of these other two safeties have. He can play in the box or cover deep. But he doesn’t do either as well as these two, and that will ultimately relegate him to the third-safety role.

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