The New Orleans Saints find themselves in a pickle when it comes to their cornerback depth in 2021.
This offseason, they cut Janoris Jenkins to save cap space and have so far failed to sign a veteran cornerback to take his spot. There were some rumors they planned to trade up in the 2021 NFL Draft to take top cornerback prospects Caleb Farley or Patrick Surtain II, but that didn’t happen.
Barring any late offseason trades or signings, the Saints will have to figure out how to make the most of Lattimore and Co. and defend their backfield.
Here are the Saints’ cornerback options for 2021:
- Marshon Lattimore
- Patrick Robinson
- Paulson Adebo
- Ken Crawley
- Grant Haley
- Bryce Thompson
- Lawrence Woods
Marshon Lattimore is the de facto No. 1 cornerback, easily topping the group with the most experience and skill. He enters his fifth season with the Saints and has accumulated some impressive awards including a Pro Bowl berth and Defensive Rookie of the Year.
While not as sharp a ballhawk as his ex-partner in crime Jenkins, Lattimore has allowed under 53 percent completion when targeted over the last two seasons, with 10 interceptions and 55 pass breakups in four years.
Following his recent arrest and possible suspension, though, the Saints may not have him to start the season. Oh, boy.
New Orleans Saints cornerback unit still has a gaping, unfilled hole
Lattimore’s backup may be found in the erratic Patrick Robinson or the rookie Paulson Adebo. It’s hard to believe these are their best cornerback options, but they are.
At 34, Robinson is the oldest player on the Saints roster, and theoretically, he should have the most tactical experience and wisdom. He showed flashes of strength in 2020 when he broke up four passes and recorded two interceptions, but he also allowed 64 percent completion in his coverage. His hot and cold performances proved he’s only a liability as a full-time starter and fits a reserve role much better.
His younger counterpart in Paulson Adebo, the third-round pick in the draft, has exciting promise as a shutdown zone corner. He’s not the most physically gifted corner and struggles with man coverage, but he could make an immediate impact given their sparse secondary options. The Saints should hope Adebo learns the system as quickly as possible.
The rest of the reserves are a mix of deeper depth pieces and undrafted long shots. Ken Crawley enters his sixth season with New Orleans, and Grant Haley enters his fourth. Crawley and Haley played in a combined seven games last year with just seven recorded tackles in total.
Bryce Thompson and Lawrence Woods are undrafted and unproven prospects who will need phenomenal training camp performances to make the roster. That, or get bitten by a radioactive spider. The odds don’t look so good.
There’s still time for New Orleans to tie up their secondary loose ends before the season starts. If they can get their hands on Xavien Howard, for instance, their cornerback unit will automatically elevate to elite status. And all of these hair-clutching concerns and worries will be no more than receding objects in the rearview mirror.
For now, though, this is the state of their cornerbacks: middling, mediocre, and maybe the worst position group of the team. We’re not placing much trust in the Saints corners, and neither should you.