Saints Cornerback Battle Taking Shape At Rookie Mini-Camp


A glaring problem that has nagged the New Orleans Saints since before the 2014 season even ended is starting to inch toward a possible solution as their rookie mini-camp begins to wind down.

The cornerback spot was a patchwork of disaster ever since the team lost veteran Jabari Greer in 2013 to a career ending knee injury.

It was crossed fingers and whispered prayers as players were moved like chess pieces culminating in the total wash of a signing in corner Champ Bailey and drafting of “project” Stanley Jean-Baptiste in 2014.

The only viable starter the Saints had was Keenan Lewis who played injured for several games while rookies like Brian Dixon were thrust into a starting role.

Dec 28, 2014; Tampa, FL, USA; New Orleans Saints cornerback Keenan Lewis (28) intercepted the ball during the second half against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium. New Orleans Saints defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 23-20. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Head coach Sean Payton said the team was making an effort to fix that issue in the offseason with the signing of free agents Brandon Browner and Delvin Breaux.

For good measure the team selected two physical corners in the 2015 NFL Draft in P.J. Williams and Damian Swann.

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Of course the big question was that obviously Lewis and Browner would be the starters, but where does everyone else fit?

Another concern is one that surrounded Breaux who has played in the Canadian Football League but hasn’t seen a snap in the NFL.

Many analysts were asked how they felt he would fit in with the Saints but no answers could be given until they actually got to see him live in the flesh.

Sept. 20, 2014; Hamilton, ON, CANADA; Hamilton Tiger-Cats corner back Delvin Breaux (27) during pre-game warmups for a game vs. the Edmonton Eskimos at Ivor Wynne Stadium. Hamilton defeated Edmonton 25-23. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

The media was allowed access on Saturday afternoon and Payton gave a hint as to how the cornerback battle is taking shape in a post-practice press conference.

When asked about Breaux, Payton’s eyes widened several times as he remarked on what great physical shape he was in due to him being around in the offseason.

Also asked about Williams and Swann, Payton responded that they are “competing” for the nickel corner position which has become quite common in regular base defenses.

Payton also remarked that all three have “stood out” during the duration of the mini-camp with Swann and Breaux specifically.

Delving into the nickel position more, Payton mentioned that along with Williams and Swann, other players on the roster will compete for that spot while Breaux “will probably work more outside(corner)”.

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The dream solution for the Saints would be for Breaux as well as Jean-Baptiste to help back up Browner and Lewis since they fit the mold the Saints are wanting on the outside as tall, big corners.

But that is more likely a pipe dream until training camp opens to see if Jean-Baptiste can even make the jump into not just a starting role, but seeing the field at all for 2015 after being a no show last season.

Two others that could find themselves on the outside looking in is Kyle Wilson and Terrence Frederick who may not necessarily fit the big corner mold for the outside and more suited for the nickel where there will be plenty of competition.

Nov 24, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith (89) catches a touchdown pass over New Orleans Saints defensive back Brian Dixon (20) during the first quarter of a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Along the lines of Dixon, he may be dialed back to competing for the nickel as well even though he played on the outside this past season due to injuries.

While he was serviceable at times, Dixon found himself outmatched on several occasions against veteran receivers and quarterbacks who licked their chops at exposing the rookie from Northwest Missouri State.

With the mini-camp still going though, there could be other corners the Saints may choose to sign at it’s conclusion.

With what happened last season they won’t be taking any chances on having a secondary that limped into the offseason on fumes…..

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