Saints Secondary Looks To Bounce Back In 2013
By Greg Barber
The New Orleans Saints secondary was absolutely atrocious in 2012 and there were definite signs that the team was extremely uncomfortable with former defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's system.
There were several occurrences during the season of players blowing their assignments and allowing the opposing receiver to be wide open on their routes. Many people called it a lack of talent but it was truly a situation where the talent simply did not fit the scheme.
Now that Rob Ryan has taken over the defense, he will bring a more aggressive style that the secondary will be more accustomed to. In this segment, I discuss the Saints secondary and how it will possibly look at the start of regular season.
White is going to be a baller in the future as he has both the swagger and confidence to become a top-notch cornerback in the NFL. White will make mistakes as every corner does at times, but he has a short memory that will take him a long way. As 2012 progressed, White showed a lot of promise before he was hurt. It will not be a surprise at all if he is starting opposite Keenan Lewis toward the end of this season.
There were a lot of factors contributing to his poor play in 2012 and Greer showed strong signs of losing a step. Combine that with the injuries he has experienced and it will not be a surprise if he is replaced by Corey White before the season ends.
Lewis will prove to be a major addition for the Saints. New Orleans signed him at the right time in his career and playing a few years in Pittsburgh's defensive system will be helpful to him and the rest of the defense. Lewis has not proven to be an interception machine, but he can defend passes and has the ability to take an opposing receiver out of the game.
Robinson is an enigma wrapped in a riddle - one minute he drives you crazy because he blows a coverage and the next minute he is picking off a pass and running it back for a touchdown. If Rob Ryan can get Robinson off of this roller coaster ride and become a more steady player, it will be significant in making the secondary much more dangerous.
These four will ultimately make the team and have an impact on this season while six other cornerbacks have a shot at making the roster. They are Chris Carr, A.J. Davis, Korey Lindsey, Ryan Steed, Rod Sweeting and Dion Turner. They are all intriguing prospects but the ones that stand out the most to me are Sweeting, Steed, Davis and Turner. With such a high level of competition, however, making the squad will not be an easy task.
Vaccaro’s versatility to play both safety positions and the nickel puts him in the mix to start the first week of the season. The question is, whom will he end up starting ahead of, Malcolm Jenkins or Roman Harper?
Jenkins is similar to Patrick Robinson in that he is an enigma wrapped in a riddle. Jenkins should probably be one of the best safeties in the NFL with his strong work ethic and intelligence. Hopefully Rob Ryan can put him in a position to succeed as Jenkins has the tools to be a great player.
Harper is excellent at stopping the run and is strong when it comes to blitzing the passer. The biggest complaint about him is that he lacks coverage skills. Regardless, Harper still has a strong value to the team in 2013 and will play a role in the defense.
Leonhard played for nine years in Rex Ryan's defensive system and was a defensive leader during his time with the Jets. Even though injuries derailed his career, Leonhard could be a big gain for the Saints. His knowledge of the defense will get the team up to speed sooner, but the problem is that if he makes the team, Rafael Bush or Isa Abdul-Quddus may end up out of a job. Is it worth it to keep Leonhard and lose the possible upside of a younger player?
Isa Abdul-Quddus, Rafael Bush, Jerico Nelson
Abdul-Quddus and Bush are fighting it out for a roster spot, and there is a good chance one of the two will not make the team. Both are good, young defensive backs and will be strong players either for the Saints or for another team down the road. Nelson is a long shot to make the team but has a chance of making the practice squad.
Overall, the secondary should perform much better under Rob Ryan then they did in 2012 under Spagnuolo. Heading into 2013, this group has a lot more versatility, which will be a strong asset in the event of injuries. By implementing Ryan's plethora of schemes, this secondary should become more consistent and opportunistic.