Projecting the Saints 53-man Roster: Cornerback

Bob Rose

The New Orleans Saints enter their 2020 training camp with a pair of shutdown cornerbacks that make most NFL teams envious. Marshon Lattimore and Janoris Jenkins are a Pro Bowl tandem of corners who are each capable of shutting down the league's best wideouts. New Orleans lost former starter Eli Apple in free agency this offseason and added little else at the CB spot, leaving concerns about the skilled depth at the position. Today, we take a look at the Saints CB depth chart as the team prepares for the 2020 season

SAINTS CORNERBACK ROSTER

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Nov 10, 2019; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore (23) breaks up a pass to Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) during the first half at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Tino Ellis (Rookie)

Justin Hardee

Janoris Jenkins

Marshon Lattimore

Patrick Robinson

Keith Washington (Rookie)

P.J. Williams

ROSTER LOCKS

Janoris Jenkins (5'10" 190-Lbs., 31-Yrs old)

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Jan 5, 2020; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New Orleans Saints cornerback Janoris Jenkins (20) defends Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs (14) during the second quarter of a NFC Wild Card playoff football game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick Hingle-USA TODAY

Jenkins, an eight-year veteran, made an immediate impact after being a late-December waiver pick-up last season. He had an interception and two pass breakups in the final two regular season contests, then did a spectacular job against the Vikings Stefon Diggs during the Saints playoff game. A dangerous playmaker, Jenkins has 23 career interceptions, 8 fumbles forced or recovered, and an incredible 8 defensive touchdowns.

Marshon Lattimore (6’0” 192-Lbs., 24-Yrs old)

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Dec 16, 2019; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore (23) defends a pass intended for Indianapolis Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (13) in the fourth quarter at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY

Despite an inconsistent postseason outing, Lattimore had perhaps his best season, earning his second Pro Bowl bid in three years. He broke up 14 passes and allowed only one score and 50% completion percentage when targeted. Lattimore can shadow the NFL's best receivers and take them out of the game, allowing defensive coordinator Dennis Allen to be more aggressive with his coverage packages.

P.J. Williams (6’0” 196-Lbs., 27-Yrs old)

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Oct 8, 2018; New Orleans, LA, USA New Orleans Saints cornerback P.J. Williams (26) defends Washington Redskins wide receiver Jamison Crowder (80) during the second half at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. © Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Williams signed a one-year offseason deal to return to the Saints for his fifth season. He struggles when asked to play man coverage, but his versatility is an enormous asset to the secondary. Williams is a sure tackler, excels in off-ball coverage, and played well when filling in for an injured Marcus Williams at safety last season.

ON THE BUBBLE

Justin Hardee (6’1” 200-Lbs., 26-Yrs old)

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Aug 18, 2019; Carson, CA, USA; Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Malachi Dupre (8) cannot make a catch as New Orleans Saints defensive back Justin Hardee (34) defends during the fourth quarter at Dignity Health Sports Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

One of the league's best special teams players has also provided CB depth for New Orleans over the last three years. Hardee has just 1 career interception and 2 passes defended, but coaches remain confident in his ability to step in defensively if asked.

Patrick Robinson (5'11" 191-Lbs., 32-Yrs old)

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Dec 22, 2019; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; New Orleans Saints defensive back Patrick Robinson (21) breaks up a touchdown pass intended for Tennessee Titans wide receiver Tajae Sharpe (19) during the second half at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY

Robinson was a huge defensive liability in 2019 but remains on the team because of his veteran experience. The Saints hope he can regain the form that made him one of the league's better slot corners with the Eagles in 2017, but Robinson's roster spot should be in jeopardy.

PRACTICE SQUAD CANDIDATE

Tino Ellis (6'0” 200-Lbs., 22-Yrs old)

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Nov 17, 2018; College Park, MD, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Johnnie Dixon (1) defended after a catch by Maryland Terrapins defensive back Tino Ellis (7) at Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY

The undrafted rookie from Maryland has a compact build and packs a punch as a hitter. Ellis struggled with injuries in college but is combative in coverage and has the speed and leaping ability to stay with most wideouts.

Keith Washington (6’1” 180-Lbs., 23-Yrs old)

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Oct 25, 2018; Morgantown, WV, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers cornerback Keith Washington (28) intercepts a pass during the first quarter against the Baylor Bears at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY

An undrafted rookie from West Virginia, Washington is a superb athlete with natural coverage ability and excellent instincts off the ball. His slight build could give him trouble against bigger receivers, but he has a fluid change of direction and good route recognition skills.

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Jul 28, 2018; Metairie, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore (23) tackles wide receiver Michael Thomas (13) during training camp at New Orleans Saints Training Facility. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The Saints typically carry five CBs on their active roster, but with their depth at safety may keep less here this year. Second-year S Ceedy Duce (C.J. Gardner-Johnson) is the team’s top slot coverage option and the defense used P.J. Williams in nearly 75% of last year’s defensive snaps. Hardee will be hard to unseat because of his special team ability, and Robinson has an edge over the two undrafted rookies because of his experience. The lack of offseason workouts and preseason games make it more difficult for UDFA rookies Washington and Ellis to earn a spot, making them look destined for the practice squad for development. If either rookie plays well against the Saints top receivers early in practice and Robinson struggles, however, then don't be surprised if New Orleans moves on from the veteran CB hoping to strengthen their coverage depth. 

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