It wasn't so long ago that the New Orleans Saints defense was one of the biggest laughing stocks in the NFL. Whether they tried to get better through the draft or free agency, nothing seemed to work. There was always something that held the team back in those three straight 7-9 years from 2014-2016, but there was a glimpse of hope that all started to put things in motion when the team moved on from Rob Ryan after an embarrasing 2015 road loss to the Redskins.
Dennis Allen probably doesn't get a ton of credit on the surface for the defensive turnaround for the Saints, but he should. His rebuilding and retooling helped New Orleans bring in some key building blocks, and it all came together when 2017 rolled around. The players brought in during that draft have become cornerstones, and one of those said players we look at a little more today as we keep exploring the Top 10 lineup on our Saints player countdown. First, let's check out where our Top 25 list has been so far.
- No. 25, Latavius Murray | No. 24, Taysom Hill | No. 23, C.J. Gardner-Johnson
- No. 22, Malcom Brown | No. 21, Marcus Williams | No. 20, Deonte Harris
- No. 19, Andrus Peat | No. 18, Cesar Ruiz | No. 17, Janoris Jenkins
- No. 16, Thomas Morstead | No. 15, Wil Lutz | No. 14, Marcus Davenport
- No. 13, Erik McCoy | No. 12, David Onyemata | No. 11, Malcolm Jenkins
- No. 10, Emmanuel Sanders | No. 9, Jared Cook
No. 8 - Marshon Lattimore
The grading probably didn't tell the whole story for Marshon Lattimore in 2019, as he finished out at 65.6 overall (53rd out of 115 cornerbacks). He ended up making the Pro Bowl for the second time in his career, starting in 14 games that he appeared in. Lattimore finished with 57 tackles (46 solo, 11 assisted), one interception, and led the team with 14 passes defended. He also was selected to the PFWA All-NFC team.
Lattimore's defensive highlights were strong, and earned him No. 76 on the NFL's Top 100 Player List. He posted a career-high 12 tackles against the Seahawks in Week 3, and followed up that performance by holding Cowboys receiver Amari Cooper to five catches for 48 yards, drawing two offensive pass interference penalties in the process. The following week against the Buccaneers, Lattimore shut down Mike Evans, who didn't post a single reception. On the road against the Jaguars on Oct. 13, Lattimore had his first and only pick of the season while holding D.J. Chark to just three catches for 43 yards.
Lattimore's Outlook in 2020
Lattimore enters the final year of his original rookie deal, and the Saints have already committed to picking up his fifth-year option for 2021. As mentioned previously, he'll pair extremely well with Janoris Jenkins as a stellar cornerback combo. Lattimore will once again have his hands full with the usual suspects in the NFC South, but will also presumably draw matchups against Davante Adams (Packers), Allen Robinson (Bears), Adam Thielen (Vikings), Kenny Golladay (Lions), Alshon Jeffrey (Eagles), Tyrell Williams (Raiders), Courtland Sutton (Broncos), Keenan Allen (Chargers), and Tyreek Hill (Chiefs).
"They can play left and right. We also look at the skillsets of the receivers we're going against to see how they matchup well against each other," said Aaron Glenn in early June.
"Janoris being a smaller stature than Marshon, sometimes you want to have Marshon on the bigger receiver, and put him (Janoris) on the small receiver. So what you are saying is right. You are able to mix and match and be able to find the right matchups. And what our guys do best be able to alleviate what their guys do best and try to put that matchup against each other. So sometimes they are going to stay left and right because both of those guys are good press corners and receivers are just normal receivers. Or those receivers might have physical matchups that we feel like Marshon's better at or Janoris is better at and try to match them up like that."