New Orleans Saints defensive back Ken Crawley, aka @RIPGADGETT, started the 2016 offseason as the 5th (or 6th) cornerback option on the roster. His position on the depth chart was to be expected for an undrafted rookie player who was just happy to make the team. Then, injuries took their toll. Keenan Lewis was released while rehabbing an injury, Damian Swann and Kyle Wilson were placed on injured reserve, and in consecutive weeks, starters Delvin Breaux and P.J. Williams were lost for most and all of the 2016 season respectively.
Early in the first quarter of the second game of the season versus the New York Giants, Crawley found himself thrust into a starting role across from Odell Beckham Jr. and Victor Cruz. On a day when defense ruled, the Saints did not allow an offensive touchdown, but still ended up losing 16-13 after a late Giants field goal. Unfortunately for Crawley, the play upon which the field goal was set up was a completed pass to a Crawley-covered Cruz down the sideline. The play was promising and maddening (also foreshadowing) all at once, as Crawley narrowly missed an interception which could have led to a Saints drive for a win. Instead, the pass slid between his grasp and into the arms of Cruz.
The rookie would go on to start 5 of 15 games before dislocating his knee in practice during the last week of the season, and would miss the finale in Atlanta against the Falcons. Over the course of the season, Crawley tallied 43 total tackles, 40 solo and three assisted. He defended eight passes and also forced and recovered one fumble. Crawley’s recovery time from his injury was set at 6-8 weeks, making him available to compete for a roster spot when practice resumes later this year.
Competition at the cornerback position will be fierce, and it is expected that the Saints will either sign a veteran free agent or draft a top-level rookie cornerback to start opposite Breaux. Much of what the Saints do to address their cornerback needs will be dependent on the healthy return of Breaux and the future of Williams.
Other players to consider would be Wilson, Swann, and De’Vante Harris. However, the biggest hurdle for Crawley will be his ability to rid himself of bad habits in coverage and turning to play the ball instead being too aggressive with his hands downfield. Ken Crawley certainly has potential, but in reality is best suited as an outside corner who must either elevate his game to starter-level or resign himself to becoming a backup.