Lattimore’s strong day raises exciting question

Jun 13, 2017; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore (34) during minicamp at the New Orleans Saints Training Facility. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 13, 2017; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore (34) during minicamp at the New Orleans Saints Training Facility. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports /

Marshon Lattimore’s strong day raises the question: exactly how good will the New Orleans Saints secondary be?

Take it all skeptically. It’s early, early, early, players don’t have pads on and the neither offense nor defense have anything beyond vanilla playbook installed. This might all mean nothing. The New Orleans Saints might finish 7-9 again. They might finish worse. Fans are so thirsty for positive news that even the subtlest hint of potential becomes an ocean of talent. I don’t want to drink the Kool-Aid.

But sometimes you can to take seriously the news coming out of camp. And in this case, the news is that rookie Marshon Lattimore had a great second day of Minicamp.

According to the beat writers, Lattimore accounted for a series of PBUs on Michael Thomas and Brandon Coleman, including a stride-for-stride breakup of a Thomas go-route and a 4th-down simulation on what looked like a sure-thing catch for Coleman. Almost every writer agreed that this was Lattimore’s strongest day, and he ran with the 1’s from the getgo.

Among the various bits of news that we’re all pining for, cornerback production is probably the most promising. While the vanilla playbooks on offense keep things simple for the CBs, many of the Minicamp drills favor the offense. And while things will always be different in pads, the difference is least pronounced in the secondary.

So the fact that Marshon Lattimore is showing up in a big way — along with UDFA Arthur Maulet, who ended the practice today with an INT — poses an exciting question for Saints fans. Just how good will this secondary be?

The first part of that answer depends very much on how well Delvin Breaux returns to form. Breaux had a PBU on Michael Thomas today, and an INT off of Brees later on. He’s come back from much worse than a broken fibula (see: neck) and in 2015 was one of the best CBs in the league. If not for a few outlier plays that by all accounts he’s cleaned up, Breaux would have been in the Pro-Bowl conversation. 2016 was a different story. But Breaux has all the tools — physical and mental — to be one of the top guys in the game.

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A second, and important, part of that answer depends on the rest of the CB health. P.J. Williams and Damian Swann both flashed great potential before chest and hamstring injuries and a series of concussions took them out of operation. The Saints don’t need both to show up, and at this point Swann has a lot to prove to crack the final roster. But behind them, the Saints have Sterling Moore and a series of UDFAs. At least one of these guys needs to contribute, or at least backup, in 2017.

And then there’s the UDFAs. Ken Crawley had some very solid moments in 2016, and De’Vante Harris had drawn some praise throughout the year. But baring substantial improvement, if either is contributing heavily in 2017 something’s gone horribly wrong. Both could serve as backups, and have a good shot at cracking the roster if only for potential and ST ability. But the Saints need more than that. Arthur Maulet has been something of a camp darling so far. But he hasn’t played a single NFL game and went undrafted for a reason. He has a lot to prove.

So finally, we get to Lattimore. Lattimore, the third ranked player on the Saints draft board. If he can be the player the Saints want him to be, a combination of Breaux and Lattimore with either Moore, Williams or Swann in the slot is a dangerous group. Pair that with Vaccaro, Marcus Williams and Vonn Bell at safety, and woo. Look out. Coverage sack is not a term Saints fans are intimately familiar with. But if things go right, they could be hearing a lot more of it in 2017.