Marshon Lattimore is Playing at an Elite-Caliber Level
"Elite-caliber". It's a phrase in the sport of Pro Football that's normally reserved for the very best players in the National Football League, regardless of their position on the football field. And through the first 6 games of the current 2019 Season, it's an appropriate term to accurately describe the recent play of 3rd year Saints CB Marshon Lattimore.
After a somewhat mixed performance in pass coverage during the Saints' first three games of this season, Lattimore has since turned everything up a proverbial notch; and has put together a three-game stretch that may be unparalleled by any other CB in the entire League.
Dating back to the Black and Gold's 12-10 win over the Dallas Cowboys three weeks ago, Lattimore has virtually "shut down" a total of 3 top-notch NFL wide receivers: Cowboys WR Amari Cooper, Buccaneers WR Mike Evans, and then in yesterday's 13-6 win over Jacksonville, he shut down Jaguars WR DJ Chark.
In what was a near-dominant effort by the entire Saints defensive unit, the 23-year old Lattimore had a superb individual performance; as he recorded an interception against heralded Jaguars rookie QB Gardner Minshew along with 3 tackles and 3 PBU's (pass break-ups), while rendering Chark ineffective for the majority of yesterday's contest at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville.
Chark — the Louisiana native and former LSU star who had been one of the NFL's "hottest" WR's coming into yesterday with 5 TD receptions in his first five games — was held in check by the Saints #1 cornerback, as he was limited to 4 receptions on 7 targets, for a season-low 43 receiving yards.
"When they covered us, they were in Cover 2 man (coverage) throughout the game". Chark told reporters after the contest in the Jaguars locker room. "Personally on my end, Lattimore did a very good job by covering me along with the safety, which made it harder for me to run my routes on my end of the field".
Given that performance yesterday, it wouldn't be a stretch at all to say that Lattimore might be playing the best that he has thus far in his three-year NFL career — but not that he wasn't doing so already.
In spite of his mixed performance in those first few games of the season, the former Ohio State University star has clearly taken his play to a level normally reserved for some of the sport's very best players at the cornerback position' which at this very moment would include Patriots CB Stephon Gilmore, Vikings CB Xavier Rhodes, and Jaguars CB Jalen Ramsey.
And now if he already wasn't on the list, you can add Lattimore's name alongside them.
"They're not gonna go after me every play, so it really is on me to stay locked in", Lattimore said to the local NOLA media last week prior to yesterday's contest.
"So when they come at me, I'll be right on point. That's how I was doing this past game. But the (first three games). I mean, they're not coming my way, but they end up catching me when I was sleeping out there"
"But that's when my coach (Saints defensive backs/secondary coach Aaron Glenn) came to me and said: 'Just play every play one play at a time so you can stay focused, stay locked in and be consistent".
Consistency comes with a sharper focus, and clearly Lattimore has committed himself in the Black and Gold's past 3 games to giving his very best possible performance week in and week out.
However, Lattimore isn't taking anything for granted; and remains adamant that there is still plenty of games yet to play before he would ever be content to simply consider resting on the laurels that are being thrown in his direction.
"After the season, I can get happy about it," Lattimore said. "But we're still in the grind".
Next week, that grind will take Lattimore and the Saints defense to Soldier Field in Chicago, to face the (3-2) and always tough NFC opponent, the Chicago Bears; where he'll likely be matched up one-on-one with Chicago #1 WR Allen Robinson.
But with the superb performance that he's now given in three straight games during the Saints' current 4-game winning streak, Robinson very well likely could meet the very same fate as those other previously-mentioned receivers that have been shut down by the Saints' top pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.
New Orleans is (5-1) on the season, but they are undefeated (4-0) since Drew Brees was lost to a torn thumb ligament in the Rams lost back in Week #2.
But without a doubt, it's the Saints defense that deserves the majority of the credit for the team remaining competitive and able to maintain the capability to win games without their starting #1 and future Hall of Fame quarterback.
A defense that has one of the very best players at the cornerback position in the entire NFL with Lattimore — whose "elite-caliber" performance has allowed New Orleans to remain as one of the top teams in Pro Football for 2019.