Anybody who knows the history of the New Orleans Saints might think this statement sounds so like it’s not just out of left field, but from outer space. Still, it’s not absurd at all:
The 2015 Saints might feature the best secondary in the NFL.
I write this as one who is still not happy with the releases of the utterly professional, productive class acts at other positions, Pierre Thomas and Curtis Lofton. But unhappiness with some Saints moves does not preclude being thrilled with the latest action.
First, the starting cornerback tandem of Keenan Lewis (assuming he’ll get over his funk) and Brandon Browner should be not merely good, but nearly spectacular. And as recently as this time last year, the safety tandem of Kenny Vaccaro and Jairus Byrd looked to have all-world potential. Let’s assume Lewis and Browner each play up to their usual level. And assume that Byrd and Vaccaro each play as well as they played in 2013 (not 2014). Suddenly, we’re looking at the secondary version of the famed Dome Patrol linebacking corps of the late 1980s/early ’90s. Seriously. All four of them have Pro Bowl potential, especially when in the same lineup with each other, so that not one of them is required to perform superhuman feats just to make up for mistakes/failures by somebody else.
But it’s not just the starters who inspire confidence. The depth suddenly looks terrific, too. Assuming Rafael Bush recovers well from his late-season injury, the safety spots will be manned by the very capable Bush, the solid professional Jamarca Sanford, the ball-hawking sophomore Pierre Warren, the hustling coach’s son Vinnie Sunseri, and (also in the mix for roster spots) the decent journeyman pro Kenny Phillips and the former CFL standout Marcus Ball. And that’s not even counting Corey White, who showed excellent potential as a corner two years ago before stumbling last year and moving to safety.
Likewise, the potential, at least, among the backups at cornerback is pretty darn good. Terrence Frederick actually did a respectable job as a late-season fill-in as a starter. Brian Dixon, as an undrafted rookie, showed great hustle and moxie, with a real chance to develop into a good mid-level pro. We already know that last year’s second round draft choice, Stanley Jean-Baptiste, is a “project,” but also that he has excellent raw athletic ability, great size, and reportedly a good work ethic. Finally, former LSU Tiger Delvin Breaux played very well indeed in the CFL, and might be a real sleeper with star potential.
There will be some serious competition for roster spots, not just in a desperate way to try to find barely serviceable backups, but instead among players who might be assets on any roster in the NFL.
Yeah, yeah, we still are in desperate need of a pass rush, because no NFL secondary can look good if the opposing quarterback has all day to throw the ball. But for now, Who Dats should be very pleased at what they see in the defensive backfield.
— Quin Hillyer