The New Orleans Saints defense stunk last season. This is common knowledge and doesn’t need elaboration. This season hopes to be different with the hiring of Rob Ryan and his Gregg Williams-like aggressive philosophy. The defense won’t be fixed in one season and will still have many holes, but there is one position that should be more than solid going into the season—cornerback. Despite the deficiencies and question marks on other parts of the defense, the cornerback position is good enough as it stands right now, and I would go as far as to say that it is above average (can’t say any defensive position group is good or great on the worst defense ever).
The cornerbacks feature Jabari Greer, who has been one of the most stable and effective pieces since his signing in 2009. Since 2009, he has had only 8 interceptions; however, Greer has never been a high interception guy, even since his days in Buffalo. This is probably due to the fact that he is one of least targeted players on the Saints defense. Even though his interception totals are down, his passes defended have always been there, recording at least 12 defenses in 4 of his last 5 seasons. Greer remains one of the most underrated players in the league, but the Saints know his value and will need it going forward.
Playing opposite Greer will be newly signed free agent, and New Orleans native Keenan Lewis. If the acquisition of Darrelle Revis by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was a splash, then the Lewis signing was more of a ripple. Though unheralded, Lewis will still prove to be an effective piece. Last season, Lewis’ first full season as a starter, he was the 2nd most targeted cornerback in the league, according to Pro Football Focus. This was more a byproduct of playing next to great players like Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark, and Ike Taylor rather than his own inexperience or perceived deficiencies. Though highly targeted by opposing quarterbacks, he was 4th in the AFC in yards allowed and 7th in touchdowns allowed; and what might be even more impressive is that he never gave up 100 yards to an opposing receiver. Lewis, like Greer, doesn’t have huge interception totals, but has a high number of passes defended.
Though people may not know it yet, Lewis will prove to be a solid corner who is prepared to take that next step to be great. He, along with Greer, will be able to hold down the outside very well. The presence of these two pillars should have a residual effect on the often scrutinized Patrick Robinson who will move to the third cornerback position. Expect Robinson to put together a solid season as he will be matched up on smaller, quicker slot receivers rather than taller, more physical receivers. In addition, it should help the much maligned pass rush by giving them more time to get to the quarterback. If the Saints end up seeing a great improvement, it won’t come as a surprise if Lewis and Greer are at the center of it.