Marshon Lattimore did not have the greatest of seasons last year.
Despite making the esteemed NFL Top 100 list, notching in at No. 76, the actual production didn’t match what we’ve come to expect from the young stud.
The former rookie phenom, who allowed no touchdowns, picked off five passes and broke up 13 passes in 2017, allowed three touchdowns, picked off one pass and broke up 10 passes in 2019, according to Pro Football Focus.
That may not appear like quite as big a discrepancy as I’m making it seem, but when you take into account every factor, the down-tick in performance becomes more evident.
PFF tracks passer rating when targeted for corners, to get a better picture of how irritating they are to opposing QBs. Lattimore’s passer rating when targeted was a mere 51.2 in 2017, which was fourth-best in the league among corners with at least 500 snaps in the regular season and postseason combined.
With those same qualifications, he ranked 32nd and 30th in 2018 and 2019, respectively.
This isn’t to say he was bad in 2018, as he ranked 16th out of 89 corners in coverage grade, allowing two TDs and picking off four passes.
No doubt, the expectations for Lattimore might have dipped a bit after the past two seasons.
After his rookie year, we thought he was going to be a perennial top-five corner. After his good, not great, sophomore campaign, we considered that season to be an aberration for him. But after a somewhat disappointing third season, finishing 40th out of 95 corners in PFF coverage grade, we’re just hoping for him to get back to a semblance of what he looked like in 2017 and 2018.
My opinion is that he will. Other than just gut-feeling and knowing the mental make-up of the young corner, his pedigree — along with the underrated addition of Janoris Jenkins — gives me hope that Lattimore can return to his alpha corner status.
In a piece I wrote about Jenkins back in June, a couple quotes from Saints secondary coach Aaron Glenn were included, one being that he thinks Jenkins’ quickness and versatility will provide more flexibility with how they match the two corners up with certain receivers.
“We also look at the skill-sets of the receivers we’re going against to see how they matchup well against each other. Janoris being a smaller stature than Marshon, sometimes you want to have Marshon on the bigger receiver, and put him (Janoris) on the small receiver.”
This could help tremendously, considering the tough slate of wide receivers the Saints defense will go up against, given there is a season. The Falcons (x2), Bucs (x2), Chiefs, Packers, Lions, Chargers, Bears and Vikings all have at least one really good receiver on their team, while a few of those teams have multiple very good ones.
One thing we know about Lattimore is that he responds to a challenge. He’s a gamer, who likes to go up against the best. There were murmurs last year that the the lack of elite competition he faced caused him to be a bit lazy at times.
Whether this is true or not, it doesn’t excuse the poor play. But if it is true, that could turn out to be a good thing for everyone in 2020.
Nonetheless, one bad year doesn’t make Lattimore a bad player. Guys like Jalen Ramsey, Patrick Paterson and Chris Harris Jr. are all coming off of similarly disappointing tenures in 2019, but they’re still viewed as high-tier corners.
This is just the volatility of cornerback play, in general. It’s one of the hardest, if not the hardest, positions to play in football.
But if there’s anyone due for a bounce-back year, it’s Lattimore. Especially considering a possible contract extension is at stake sooner than later.
With all that being said, I’d bet a good amount of money we see a rejuvenated Marshon in 2020. Let’s just hope he follows through on that, so we can both get paid.
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