Nov 15, 2015; Landover, MD, USA; New Orleans Saints cornerback Keenan Lewis (21) is looked at by trainers after suffering an apparent leg injury during the first half at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
#3. Keenan Lewis
Last year was one of the most difficult seasons in Keenan Lewis’ entire NFL career.
The New Orleans native was plagued by injury from the get go, and was never able to get fully healthy. Lewis’ absence forced Brandon Browner to be used in situations he was never supposed to be in, compounding his abysmal performance.
This trickle effect also affected Saints safety Jarius Byrd, because he was constantly forced to account and try to cover for Browner, he was unable to patrol center-field and be the ball-hawk the Saints paid him to be.
Nov 8, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints cornerback Keenan Lewis (21) before a game against the Tennessee Titans at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
The only positive development that came from this was it allowed Delvin Breaux to emerge and assert himself as the Saints #1 corner on the roster.
Delvin went through some growing pains to be sure, but ultimately, he demonstrated that he has the ability to be a “shutdown” corner in the NFL.
If Keenan Lewis returns to form and is able to stay healthy ( a big “IF“), the Saints will have the best tandem at corner for their base defense since the days of Jabari Greer and Tracy Porter, when the Saints won the Super Bowl.
Keenan Lewis would bring a veteran savvy that would benefit the entire defense, and allow Jarius Byrd the opportunity to be the player the Saints need him to be.
However, if Lewis struggles with injury, or loses a few steps, opposing defenses will focus exclusively on his side of the field, as the Saints would be forced to rely on unproven young talent such as P.J. Williams at the position.
Opponents would simply stay away from Delvin Breaux’s side of the field, and once again Jarius Byrd would be forced to compensate instead of having the freedom to rove the field to create mayhem and turnovers.
Lewis is the most critical player to the Saints secondary. If he is able to stay healthy, it will allow the Saints defense to deploy their athleticism, and play with a freedom we haven’t seen since the days of Greg Williams.
However, the success of the defense will depend heavily on the next player on this list.
Next: Collapse the Pocket