The New Orleans Saints have had one of the NFL's best defensive backfields over the last two seasons. One major reason has been a talented and versatile safety position. Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, Marcus Williams, and Malcolm Jenkins were playmakers all over the field, allowing their cornerbacks to be more aggressive.
The unit has undergone some major changes this offseason. Williams signed a lucrative free-agent deal with Baltimore. Jenkins retired after 13 NFL seasons. New Orleans responded by signing former Jets standout Marcus Maye, re-signing versatile P.J. Williams, and adding free-agent safeties Justin Evans and Daniel Sorensen.
Just days after the draft, the Saints made another splash by signing free-agent S Tyrann Mathieu, a five-time Pro Bowler. While the position might look crowded at the moment, there is one rookie who could force his way onto the depth chart. He’s a highly regarded prospect that surprisingly went undrafted and is the subject of today's rookie profile.
SMOKE MONDAY, S
Quindarious Monday, nicknamed ‘‘Smoke'' as a young child, was a four-star recruit out of Carver High School in Atlanta. He chose Auburn as an in-state option over other high-profile recruiters. Over his first two years, Monday gathered two interceptions, three sacks, and four tackles for loss as a key reserve.
Monday was a starter by 2020 and grabbed two interceptions while adding a sack and four tackles for loss among 73 total stops. In 2021, he had an interception, 9 tackles for loss, two sacks, and broke up five passes. Monday returned three of his five interceptions for a touchdown over his Auburn career.
A highly aggressive defender, Monday is capable of making plays in the tackle box or as a deep safety. He’s not strong in man coverage because of a lack of long speed and average change-of-direction. Monday's aggressive nature can be used against him, often biting hard on play-action fakes. His backpedal can be stiff, leading to vulnerability against shifty receivers and sharp route runners.
Monday's range is limited as a single-high safety because of his foot speed. He can also be slow to process multiple receiver sets in zones or deep coverage. As a tackler, he packs a punch but can be caught out of position on misdirection. His desire for a big hit can also be a liability against elusive runners.
Monday has a big-play mentality that can change the momentum of a game. He reads quarterbacks well and will make them pay for locking onto a receiver. When the ball is in the air, he has a receiver's mentality and excellent ball skills.
At the line of scrimmage, Monday flows to the play like a linebacker. He shows outstanding recognition of a play as it develops and moves decisively to the ball. Once he sees a gap, he explodes through it. That gives him added value as a blitzer. His bone-jarring tackles can boost an entire defense.
Smoke Monday has the versatility that the Saints look for in their defensive backs. He has the ball skills to be dangerous in two-high safety alignments and game-changing ability near the line of scrimmage.
Monday may have an uphill battle for a roster spot, but has the traits to steal the spot of an established veteran and work his way into a defensive role.