For the past decade, the New Orleans Saints’ secondary has been synonymous with the term torturous. Whenever the game is on the line, and the opposing team drops back into play-action, Saints fans find the nearest hole to bury their head in the sand to save themselves from inevitable misery.
While criticism of cornerback Marshon Lattimore’s performance in recent seasons holds validity, it often leaves out one crucial element: lack of a dependable counterpart. When coverage is so lopsided, not only does this intensify the mental pressure on the reliable corner, but it also plainly leads to glaring defensive holes and exploitation of the weak points of coverage.
Fortunately, the shrewd late-season signing of CB Janoris Jenkins has seemingly paid off in spades; New Orleans’ secondary coverage – for once – might not be the team’s biggest liability heading into the 2020 NFL season.
As it turns out, Saints fans overwhelmingly agree:
I battled with how to list this one, but let's just stick with the tandem, but this is an very interesting conversation. Please elaborate on your choice on this one!#Saints 2011 vs. 2020: Cornerbacks— Ross Jackson (@RossJacksonNOLA) July 2, 2020
2011: Jabari Greer, Tracy Porter
2020: Marshon Lattimore, Janoris Jenkins
“Jackrabbit” Jenkins has received considerable accolades from both the media and coaching staff for a thus far stellar performance in the first two days of New Orleans’ training camp. In particular, Jenkins decisively broke up a pass from the emerging dangerous duo of Drew Brees and Emmanuel Sanders on Aug. 19th that drew praise – his lockdown coverage has not gone unnoticed.
“He is an outstanding player, you see the bounce in his step. I think he’s very, very happy to be here and I think that has a lot to do with the way he’s operating now,” Saints’ secondary coach Aaron Glenn remarked on Jenkins’ prowess during his Aug. 19th media call.
Notably optimistic was Glenn’s observation of substantial improvement in the communication between the Lattimore-Jenkins tandem – something quite difficult to instantaneously develop midseason. “I think that’s a huge thing for corners I think,” Glenn noted, “the ability to speak an unspoken language, of being able to look at each other and know what each other thinks, and they’re starting to develop [that].”
Defensive coordinator Dennis Allen furthered the Jenkins praise on his respective media call, noting his addition allows for the Saints to employ a lot more press man coverage in their defensive schemes – and dial up the aggressiveness in turn. “We feel like both of those guys have great coverage ability for us and, certainly, as I’ve said before, that’s going to allow us to maybe do some different things in terms of coverage and in terms of pressure and trying to affect the quarterback,” Allen expressed.
These words were not so much emphatically uttered discussing Eli Apple (no offense, Mrs. Apple). To be blunt, the Saints cashed in on an absolute steal when Jenkins made a completely indefensible statement that effectively severed his career with the New York Giants. There’s no walk back, nor justification for how that transpired, but the reality is quite clear – the Saints were able to reign him and and keep him focused (and mute). New Orleans takes very calculated risks, though watching Payton’s schemes in real-time often suggests otherwise.
When the Saints were absolutely bleeding at the seams at receiver depth, Payton could have easily chanced it – any chance to rile up Roger Goodell is truly his pleasure – and tried to swiftly sign Antonio Brown to hurl New Orleans through the 2019 postseason. They chose not to. They carefully took that risk with Jenkins, and there’s a reason we’re the Monday Morning Quarterbacks and Payton and Mickey Loomis are in the front office.
In a game where 80% of the team was asleep until halftime, Jenkins was out there rocking Adam Thielen on the third play of the game.
The @Saints force a turnover to start the game.— NFL (@NFL) January 5, 2020
Janoris Jenkins knocks the ball loose and @Vonn Bell picks it up! @JjenkzLockdown #Saints #NFLPlayoffs
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Dare I say I...look forward to watching the Saints secondary this season?
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