3 Cornerbacks Saints Could Consider to Help Their Pass Defense


Photo by Derek E. Hingle

After the first 3 weeks of the NFL 2018 Regular Season, the (2-1) New Orleans Saints find themselves tied for the early NFC South Division lead. But they are more than aware that unless they fix their glaring problem on the defensive side of the football at the #2 starting cornerback / outside boundary position, they won’t be leading the division for very long.

As of this moment, the Saints pass defense has surrendered a grand total of 1,010 yards (and 11.2 yards per pass) in 3 games played; which ranks them 30th overall out of the League’s 32 teams, just ahead of #31 Kansas City and #32 Tampa Bay. But even worse: they’ve already given up several long “bombs” — on four passing plays of more than 50 yards each.

Starting #2 CB Ken Crawley as it’s been well-documented, has struggled mightily in all 3 games thus far, and this past Sunday his back-up and last week’s “replacement” PJ Williams got destroyed in pass coverage against Falcons WR and rookie sensation Calvin Ridley — who burned Williams time and time again to the tune of  7 receptions for 146 yards and 3 TD’s.

He was then replaced in the line-up eventually by Crawley; who once again didn’t fare all that much better and whom Williams had replaced as the starter following Crawley’s notable struggles back in the Week #1 loss to Tampa Bay in which he gave up similar numbers to Buccaneers WR DeSean Jackson (5 catches for 146 receiving yards and 2 TD’s).

Photo by Derek E. Hingle

Bottom line: the Saints pass defense looked even worse this past Sunday than they did when they were torched by Tampa QB Ryan Fitzpatrick back in Game #1 and appear to resemble the defense that was considered one of the League’s worst just a few short years ago, from 2014 through the 2016 NFL seasons.

With that thought in mind, is there anybody out there who can help the Saints get their #2 CB position back under control before it ends up ruining their season?

Later today, the team will bring in former veteran Sterling Moore for a work-out; and perhaps they’ll re-sign him after he played previously for New Orleans in the 2016 season when the defense was dealing with several season-ending injuries at the CB position that year.

However, this morning we’re taking a quick look at 3 more of the “biggest names” out there whom have all been rumored or “linked’ to the possibility of signing with the Saints, via Social Media.

And we start with…….

 

BESHAUD BREELAND, FORMERLY OF THE WASHINGTON REDSKINS

Photo by Derek E. Hingle

Breeland, who attended Clemson University from 2010 to 2013, is the “cream of the crop” among available free agent cornerbacks right now. He finished his All-ACC career at Clemson with 136 tackles, three sacks, and six interceptions. He entered the 2014 NFL Draft after his junior season and was drafted by the Washington Redskins with the 102nd overall pick, where he played for the first 4 seasons of his career.

Breeland started 15 games last year, and the 26-year old became an unrestricted free agent in the past off-season. On March 16, 2018, Breeland agreed to terms with the Saints’ NFC South Division rivals the Carolina Panthers; on a three-year, $24 million contract, including $11 million in guaranteed money. However, Breeland failed his physical after he severely cut his foot while on a visit to the Dominican Republic that later became infected; and the contract was therefore voided and he became a free agent again.

Arrowhead Addict writer Matt Conner says that Breeland since that time has visited the Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders, Indianapolis Colts, Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Ravens, and New England Patriots while the New York Jets were also rumored to be interested at one point in the Pre-Season. Conner says that it’s telling that each of those visits allowed him to walk, but it’s also confusing given Breeland’s clear history of above-average performance as a pass defender at the highest level.

Even six months ago, the Panthers were ready to commit to him at an average of $8 million per season. Conner adds that at this point it’s easy to wonder if Breeland simply is not ready and wouldn’t be able to pass a physical to even sign a deal in the first place. If so, why take all these free agent visits? Is it so that when he is ready, he can solicit offers from teams that he’s already visited so there’s no guesswork on his part? Perhaps and if so that’s a smart move on his part.

But as Conner also notes: it’s baffling to know why someone with Breeland’s talent doesn’t have meaningful work in a league that needs pass defenders.

 

JEREMY LANE, FORMERLY OF THE SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

Perhaps seen by some League observers as one of the more under-the-radar players over the last few years (because of his toughness and “gritty” playing style) is former “Legion of Boom” member and Seahawks starting CB Jeremy Lane, who has played his entire six-year career in the Pacific Northwest and most notably was a part of Seattle’s Super Bowl XLVIII-winning team after the 2013 season.

An original graduate of Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana, the 28-year old Lane was drafted by Seattle with the 172nd pick overall in the 6th round of the 2012 NFL Draft. A year later, Lane recorded his first career interception in Super Bowl XLIX, picking off Patriots QB Tom Brady on a pass at the goal-line in the first quarter. Unfortunately for Lane, the play proved costly as Lane suffered a severe arm injury and a torn ACL after being tackled by New England WR Julian Edelman.

Lane eventually re-signed with the Seahawks on a 4-year contract prior to the start of the 2016 season, but then last year he was traded along with two draft picks (a 2018 fifth-rounder and a 2019 second-rounder) to the Houston Texans for offensive tackle Duane Brown. However, the following day, it was reported Lane had failed his physical and would no longer be part of the trade, and instead the Seahawks would send a third-rounder in 2018 and second-rounder in 2019 in exchange for Brown and a 2018 fifth round pick.

Surprisingly, Lane then re-signed a new contract and went back to Seattle in November and finished the year with the Seahawks, starting 6 games last season and recording 31 tackles and a blocked kick but no interceptions or passes defended. But was then he was released along with fellow cornerback Richard Sherman (who signed with the 49ers) back in March; a move that saved Seattle $4.75 million against the salary cap. Lane had been scheduled to make $6 million in 2018. Currently, the Tyler, Texas native still hasn’t signed with anyone as of yet.

One good aspect of Lane’s play is that he had a tackling efficiency of 100% last season, according to Pro Football Focus, which is an underrated aspect of the cornerback position; especially in today’s NFL in which a majority of the League’s offenses have gone to an RPO-style (run-pass-option) scheme. However, Lane has just two career regular-season interceptions, both of which came during the 2015 season; and at this point, the fact that he remains unsigned seemingly would suggest that some teams consider his play to have fallen off in recent seasons.

Additionally, some teams might still be scared off by his legal issues stemming from a DUI that he was arrested for back in January; in which he allegedly told police that he was “more high than anything” — prompting the belief among any potentially interested team for his services that he may not be too willing to give up the use of illegal substances (cough, cough, Cheech and Chong, cough) currently banned by the League.

 

DELVIN BREAUX, FORMERLY OF THE SAINTS AND CURRENTLY WITH THE CFL’s HAMILTON TIGER-CATS

Photo by Derek E. Hingle

Breaux as most Saints fans are well aware, played with the Saints from 2015 to 2017, appearing in 22 games in 2015 and 2016 before missing the 2017 season due to injury. With the Saints, the 6-foot-1, 210-pound defensive back, and New Orleans native registered 66 total tackles, 20 passes defended, three interceptions and one fumble recovery.

Breaux was the Saints’ 2015 recipient of the Ed Block Courage Award presented to select players in the NFL who are voted by their teammates as role models of inspiration, sportsmanship, and courage. But his time in New Orleans came to an abrupt end when his NFL playing career was derailed by a pair of broken legs — one suffered in Week #1 of the 2016 season and another suffered in a slightly different location during the 2017 Pre-Season.

He never returned to the Saints’ lineup last year because of a minor setback during his rehab. Then the Saints decided not to make him an offer as a restricted free agent this year. As first reported by ESPN beat writer Mike Triplett: Breaux reportedly had visits with the New England Patriots and Denver Broncos that didn’t result in job offers, among other possible suitors. His injury history certainly couldn’t have helped his case, and Triplett noted that some teams didn’t clear Breaux medically because of his past spine injury.

Now 28, Breaux returned to the CFL’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats back in July, where he was named a CFL All-Star at the CB position back in 2014. Breaux was widely regarded as “shutdown” defensive back in Canada and helped the Ticats play in their second straight Grey Cup that year. Breaux had 33 tackles for the Tiger-Cats in 2014 with five pass breakups, three forced fumbles and an interception, which he returned 27 yards for a score.

However: so far in his CFL “come back season” in 2018, Breaux has recorded 15 tackles with no interceptions, although he does have a fumble return for a TD to his credit.

But it’s important to note: at this point, many NFL observers now consider Breaux to be “damaged goods’ and believe that his play has deteriorated severely due to the injury. Additionally, Breaux is still under contract with the Tiger-Cats; and current CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie recently decreed that CFL players CAN’T break their current contracts to return to the NFL — making the return of “The Breaux Show” to NOLA, an unlikely scenario…….

 

Editor’s Note:  If you enjoy Barry’s writing, be sure to check out his detailed story on the how the Saints and their fans are tackling the controversial NFL-National Anthem issue, featuring his interview with Saints linebacker Demario Davis!  Don’t forget to also check out our series on things to do in New Orleans as well as a piece we released today on a controversial movie filmed in New Orleans!

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