Delvin Breaux: Centerpiece for the Next Era of Saints Defense


As any Saints fan can tell you, one of the biggest problems during the Saints’ disappointing 7-9 season — if not the main problem — was the defense.

When it came down to it, there was a lack of pressure from the front line, bad tackling from the linebackers, and hardly any secondary assistance during big plays; and those things led to the Saints defense giving up the most touchdowns in NFL history in a single 16-game season.

However, throughout the 2015 season, fans watched their defense step up in interesting situations and caught a glimpse of greatness for what this defense had to offer for the future.

To the big surprise of both fans and outside observers alike, came the amazing first NFL season for cornerback Delvin Breaux, otherwise known as, “The Breaux Show”.

Nov 8, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints cornerback Delvin Breaux (40) gestures after making a defensive play against the Tennessee Titans in the first quarter of their game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

It is not too far-fetched to say that he is the future at cornerback; not only for New Orleans, but throughout the entire NFL. Delvin Breaux was an unlikely “force of nature”, standing up big-time for a struggling defense.

For those of whom that don’t know Breaux’s amazing story to the NFL, back in 2006 many thought Breaux’s life was over, much less his football career.

He was already a promising player at McDonogh 35 High School in NOLA and had a football scholarship to in-state powerhouse LSU, but on the night of Oct. 27, 2006, in a game against rival New Orleans high school Jesuit, Delvin struggled to raise his arm after an injury on kickoff coverage.

Amazingly, Breaux walked off the field and upon reaching the sidelines told his coaches he wanted back in. But he began experiencing neck and back pain, blurred vision and difficulty swallowing because one of the discs in his neck slipped into his throat.

“(Trainers) tried giving me two ibuprofens but I couldn’t swallow and it was hard to breath,” Breaux told Canadian Press columnist Dan Ralph back in 2013. “My Dad asked how I was doing and I said, ‘I’m good but call an ambulance.”’

At the hospital, a doctor told them he had suffered a broken vertebrae in his neck, realigned two others and damaged an artery.

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The force of making the tackle against Jesuit had broken the C6 vertebrae in his neck and caused both the C4 and C5 to dramatically shift.

His right vertebral artery, which carries blood from the heart to the brain and spine, was also severely damaged.

In that exclusive interview with Dan Ralph of The Canadian Press back in 2013, Delvin revealed for the first time that the very same doctor also told him that he was lucky to still even be alive:

"“The doctor told me afterwards I should’ve died on the football field. When I was first hurt, I didn’t take it too seriously because my adrenalin was pumping but when I found out how bad it was, I broke down. My parents, everybody, were crying.”"

Breaux required two operations, the first to fix the broken artery and provide stability in his spine. A metal plate was inserted into his neck during the second procedure. Breaux, who wore a Halo Brace to support the muscles in his neck and keep his head from moving around, lost roughly 30 pounds.

It took Breaux an entire six years to recover to the point where he could even play football again, and while he attended LSU, he wasn’t able to qualify medically to suit up for the Tigers.

After leaving LSU, Delvin worked first in construction and then as a bouncer at a night club; while staying active in the sport by playing flag football.

Soon afterwards, Delvin joined the Hammond-based Louisiana Bayou Vipers, a semi-pro team and his first contact football experience since his senior season of high school semi-pro football on the side.

Breaux’s talent was obvious, though, and he caught on with the Arena Football League in spring 2013, where he totaled 9 tackles in the three games that he played for the New Orleans Voodoo.

Delvin decided that it was the Canadian Football League however, that would provide him with the best opportunity to eventually get back to where he wanted to be: playing in the NFL.

November 23, 2014; Hamilton, ONT, CANADA; Tiger-Cats cornerback Delvin Breaux celebrates intercepting a Montreal Alouettes pass during first half CFL Eastern Final action at Tim Hortons Field. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Breaux left the Voodoo and signed with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League later that year, and reported to Tiger-Cats training camp in late May of 2013.

Breaux became an important part of the Tiger-Cat’s success early on, but really came into his own in 2014 — where he was named a league All-Star after recording 33 tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery and turning into one of the CFL’s top “shutdown” corners.

Breaux, 25, had 62 tackles in two seasons for Hamilton. Breaux finished with 33 tackles, five pass breakups, three forced fumbles for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 2014.

The Tiger-Cats played in the 2014 Grey Cup (Canada’s Super Bowl), losing to the Calgary Stampeders 20-16.

A few months later, the Tiger-Cats earlier this year on January 23rd announced that they’d released Breaux, who would have hit free agency February 10th.

The move was presumably to let Breaux sign with an NFL team early, so that he could choose which NFL team out of the over 20 teams that had brought him in for tryouts, that he wanted to sign with.

It took Delvin, who is known affectionately as “Chip” among family and friends, less than just a few hours to decide that he was coming home to NOLA.

With this inspirational back-story, it was safe to say that everyone loved this hometown hero and wanted to see more of him every week.

And obviously, they were not disappointed.

Delvin Breaux, who was technically not a “rookie” by NFL standards because he played professionally with the Arena League and the CFL, was among 25 new faces to play with the Saints in 2015; including five defensive rookies who started games at one point or another during the season.

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And even though the defense possibly had a worse year then it previously had in 2014 with those many rookies in the line-up, it’s indisputable to say that it likely would have been much worse — were it not for Breaux’s presence.

Although rookie (or “first year” in Breaux’s case) seasons can be hard to decide what the future may hold, there’s no debate over just how big of an impact that Breaux made in his first year.

Compared to Richard Sherman, Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and Patrick Peterson’s rookie years, Delvin put up these fantastic first-year numbers in 2015:

  • 4th in combined tackles (45)
  • 5th in solo tackles (38)
  • 3rd in assists (7)
  • Tied for 1st in passes defended (19)
  • Tied 2nd for interceptions (3)
  • 3rd in total yards from interceptions (22 yards)

From the stats, it showed that Breaux is more of a physical, man-to-man, corner. This is perfect for the Saints as for the past few years, from Jabari Greer to Keeenan Lewis to (for better or worse) Brandon Browner; we have seen the type of ‘physical’ defense the Saints have at least attempted to become known for.

Breaux quickly adapted to the NFL level, and became one of the Leagues best CB’s; ranking 6th among pass defense leaders in 2015 (per ESPN), and 5th among all corner backs.

The signing of Delvin Breaux by the Saints organization was an act of faith on their part; and an indication that they BELIEVED in Breaux’s abilities (Saints head coach Sean Payton has said it was one of the greatest individual work-outs he has ever witnessed), and Breaux has rewarded that faith by becoming the “centerpiece” for the next era of the Saints defense.

Oct 25, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; New Orleans Saints CB Delvin Breaux signals an incomplete pass after breaking up a throw intended for Indianapolis Colts receiver T.Y. Hilton (13) during the second half at Lucas Oil Stadium. The Saints went on to win, 27-21. Mandatory Credit: Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

After going though many failed attempts at replenishing the CB position in recent seasons, most recently Stanley Jean-Baptiste (never thought you’d hear that name again, did you?), followed by Brandon Browner’s very forgettable (and regrettable as far as some Saints fans are concerned) season, having Delvin was unquestionably a blessing in disguise.

He clearly is destined to have his name mentioned in the same breath as the Richard Shermans and the Darrelle Revises of the world.

That much is certain.

With many changes still expected to come to New Orleans to get the franchise back to the playoffs, there is finally some stability at the cornerback position, at least on Breaux’s side of the field.

Saints fans will be glued to changes made in the off-season, waiting to see who stays, who is added, who walks, and the biggest question on many fans’ minds: what will be done to improve the defense?

While we have to wait a while to have answers to these questions, we know one thing without hesitation:

Delvin Breaux is the “centerpiece” for the next era of the Saints defense.

Welcome home, Delvin.

And please don’t ever leave…..