I hope rookie first-round draft choice and cornerback Malcolm Jenkins enjoyed the first start of his career, covering a tough receiver in Antonio Bryant and facing a raw and mistake-prone rookie quarterback in Josh Freeman. His second start is about the get a lot harder. Coming into the Dome will be Tom Brady, a first ballot Hall of Famer who probably has a claim as the best quarterback in the league and top ten of all time. He's quarterbacked his team to three Super Bowl victories and a Super Bowl loss on the heals of the first 16-0 season in NFL history. Oh yeah, and one of his receivers happens to be one of the best of all time, too, in Randy Moss. For the Saints' sake, I hope Jabari Greer can make it back in time for this game healthy. He's their best cover corner and the Saints are depleted enough with Tracy Porter assuredly out and Randall Gay probably out as well. If Greer can go, that probably leaves Jenkins to cover Wes Welker. Welker leads the Patriots with 79 receptions and has had over 110 receptions in each of the last two seasons. If Greer can't go, then Jenkins will probably have to man up on Mr. Randy Moss. I'm not going to lie, my first thought is: YIKES. Welcome to the NFL, Malcolm. Either way, it's going to be an enormous challenge for the rookie to take on; one that will likely see him fail a few times.
Patriots vs Saints coverageThere's really no way of knowing what the Saints corner rotation is going to look like Sunday until we see it on the field. The only thing at this point that's certain is that Malcolm Jenkins will start, and Malcolm Jenkins will have his hands full. Beyond that, the following are questions we can ask ourselves:
1. Is there any chance Randall Gay will play? Any at all? Probably not, right?
2. If Jabari Greer can't go, who starts next to Jenkins? Chris McAlister? Usama Young?
3. How much action does Young even see at corner now that McAlister and McKenzie are in the mix? Are the Saints more confident right now in Young, who was converted to safety in training camp, or the veterans they signed?
4. Will McKenzie even be active, regardless of whether Jabari Greer plays or not?
5. If Greer plays, but is still sore, can he even run with Moss? Is a Greer at 90% covering Moss better than anything else we have?
My head is spinning, and part of the problem is that Sean Payton won't reveal how injured his players are or what his rotation plans will be. Nor should he, but that doesn't mean I am capable of sitting and waiting. By God I am going to speculate.
The wild cards in the equation are Pierson Prioleau and Usama Young. We've seen both come in to cover slot receivers in passing down packages. In Young's case last week, he even had to match up against outside receivers because the Saints were so short-handed. I think Chris McAlister is a given active this week. With Mike McKenzie, I'm going to say there's a 40% chance he's active. Hopefully the starters will be Greer and Jenkins. If Greer doesn't play, that's where the equation really gets dicey. I think it's fair to say that whatever rotation the Saints go with, their offense will have to score a lot of points to give them a chance.
So since Jenkins is the only real given, how do you think he'll do? He'll face Moss or Welker, and either way he's in for arguably the biggest challenge he'll ever face in his career. How does he fare?