When news came that the New Orleans Saints had placed cornerback Kyle Wilson on injured reserve last week, it appeared to be another gut punch to a defensive unit that is currently trying to right the wrongs of the last two seasons.
Fans were still trying to process the injury sustained to defensive end Hau’oli Kikaha (his third ACL tear), that was thought at the time to be season-ending — but he was said to be seeking further opinions on his knee and the Saints have yet to officially place him on injured reserve.
Oh, and let’s not forget the first hit to the defensive backfield; when safety Jamarca Sanford had his 2016 campaign cut short after showing some glimmer of potential towards the end of last year, filling in for the departed Rafael Bush.
Oct 25, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; New Orleans Saints corner back Kyle Wilson (24) raise his arms in celebration after making an interception late in the first half against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports
Now it’s granted that Wilson, who suffered a torn labrum, wasn’t expected to be a “lockdown” starting corner for the Saints; but he provided some veteran depth and experience to a position that to even the casual observer, the Saints appear to be running thin on.
It’s pretty much a consensus that since former Saints cornerback Jabari Greer suffered a career ending knee injury in late 2013, that the secondary hasn’t ever been the same.
Throw in a failed roll of the dice on veteran Champ Bailey combined with a gambled, or better yet wasted, 2014 second round pick on corner Stanley Jean-Baptiste — and the Saints are still trying to shore up the position.
That’s not to say that they don’t have competent talent, but keeping that talent on the field is what has become a major concern for them.
The narrative so far has been that heaven-sent 2nd year player Delvin Breaux is a ‘lock’ for a spot; while veteran Keenan Lewis is the favorite for the other — with “redshirt rookie” P.J. Williams pushing him closely behind followed by Damian Swann (though Swann is expected now to take over the nickel / slot CB spot in place of the recently-injured Wilson).
The big obstacle for Lewis though is shrugging off the last few seasons of injuries that hampered him, which also applies to Swann as well.
Jun 16, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints cornerback Keenan Lewis (21) during the final day of minicamp at the New Orleans Saints Training Facility. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Lewis has stated that he’s training and rehabilitating well, which is a positive note; and hopefully Swann’s rookie season that was marred by multiple concussions was just a fluke — but those dreams haven’t panned out well for the Saints in the past.
Again, the shame of it all is that these are all very talented players, it’s just that the fumigation for the injury bug infesting the Saints facility needs to go to Orkin Pest Control-level.
As in with the “tent-over-the-house-and-no-people-or-pets-are-allowed-in-the-house-for several-days” type of maintenance.
With Wilson’s exit, it seemed logical that head coach Sean Payton would bring in another veteran to at least bring to camp next month; but instead they ended up signing defensive lineman C.J. Wilson, who was most recently with the Detroit Lions.
It was a little surprising considering that on the current roster they really can’t afford to take too many more hits with injuries, especially at the corner spot.
Now it is still almost a month away until the team heads to The Greenbrier in West Virginia (if they even still go there depending on the current situation with the flooding that has devastated the nearby region) for training camp, but they could be content going there with what they have currently and taking a chance.
Understandably, this may not ease the nerves of dedicated Who Dats; but with little money to operate off of salary cap-wise (OverThe Cap.com has them at $1.56 million of space prior to C.J. Wilson’s deal) and a small free agency pool to draw from, it might be their only option.
I’m not saying there isn’t some talent they can’t bring in, it’s just that they may not be able to afford to pay what the player feels that they’re worth — even though they’re still on the market months removed from the highlights of free agency.
Nov 8, 2015; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Giants cornerback Trumaine McBride (38) during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. New York Giants defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 32-18. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Antonio Cromartie and Carey Williams are still available, along with other vets such as Trumaine McBride, Brandon Boykin, and Chris Culliver out there as well.
McBride is actually coming off a good year in 2015 when he was with the N.Y. Giants;, and tallied 26 total tackles, four passes defended, and three interceptions with one being returned 63 yards for a touchdown ironically against the Saints.
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A bit of trivia on McBride is that he was briefly with the Saints in the offseason of 2011 as a free agent signing, but didn’t make the final roster cut.
The team not signing a corner could change once the other shoe drops and a final decision is finally made on Kikaha and he ends up on IR — which is possibly what they’re waiting on as a last option along with the tight budget.
The rest of the Saints current cornerback roster is littered with undrafted free agents such as special teams mainstay Brian Dixon, veteran Tony Carter, with rookies such as Trae Elston and De’Vante Harris rounding the group out.
Defensive coordinator Dennis Allen could be banking on several of these to pan out with the tutelage of his former college teammate and former NFL cornerback Aaron Glenn; who is the Saints’ new secondary coach this year.
One corner that caught my eye going into OTA’s was Harris; who hails from both Allen and Glenn’s alma mater Texas A&M.
Harris displays a willing ability to get physical with receivers at the line of scrimmage as well as having a ton of confidence to go along with his 5-foot-11, 190 pound frame.
Whether that will translate onto the field or not remains to be seen, but I personally became a fan of Harris after seeing his “we love the haters” interview following a practice in 2015 where he also mentioned about embracing a leadership role in the Aggies secondary.
In the same interview, he also stressed giving credit to teamwork — which has been lacking dramatically within the Saints defense.
It may be a bit more easy for those of us on the outside to want to see some more fixtures at corner for the Saints, but for now it appears that they may be comfortable in going with what they already have at the position as the start of training camp rapidly approaches……..