The departure of Julio Jones from the Atlanta Falcons and the NFC South might be great for most of the division, but it’s not necessarily great for the 2017 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. While New Orleans Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore has locked down the likes of Julio Jones, Mike Evans, and Amari Cooper. But Calvin Ridley, the new number one receiver in Atlanta, has given Lattimore problems in the past. Last season, Lattimore give up five catches for 108 yards, all to Calvin Ridley. It is this type of inconsistency that likely gives the New Orleans Saints front office pause before pulling the trigger on a possible extension.
In the above play, Calvin Ridley lines up against Marshon Lattimore at the top of the formation. Ridley crosses between the numbers and the hashes and comes back to quarterback Matt Ryan for a ten-yard gain.
It’s not a problem for a defender in man coverage to be beaten by a comeback route, but by the time Ridley catches the ball, Lattimore is five or more yards away from him, with safety D.J. Swearinger forced to come in and clean up the play. The separation Ridley was able to get off of Lattimore is not something you want to see out of a number one cornerback.
In the above play, Ridley lines up at the top of the formation, starts just outside the numbers and catches the ball on the mid-field side, near the hashes. By the time Ridley makes his release inside and turns on the jets, he’s left Lattimore in his dust. This was an easy 18-yard gain for Ridley and the Falcons.
Both chronologically and level of egregiousness, here’s the last play we’ll cover of Lattimore’s stinky, no-good game against Falcons.
There are 0:20 seconds left on the clock, and the Saints are playing prevent defense. Ridley is lined up outside at the bottom of the screen, with Lattimore in off-coverage. It’s another comeback route for Ridley, who cuts back up field around the Saints’ 40-yard line. Truth be told, Lattimore is in a decent position to make a play on the ball when Matt Ryan lets it go. But Lattimore can’t break up the pass, and not only that, Ridley slips Lattimore’s tackle, gains an extra ten yards, and then gets out of bounds to stop the clock. Instead of forcing Ridley away from the sidelines and making the Falcons hurry to the of scrimmage to spike the ball, the Falcons were eventually able to throw a deep Hail Mary to the edge of the endzone to make this game a lot closer than it needed to be.
Lattimore can have lockdown games (like when he shut down Mike Evans or held the 49ers to just two catches for 16 yards when he was targeted), but he can also be a key player in the Saints’ defensive struggles.
If Lattimore wants a big pay day, he will need to show a level of consistency beyond just his play against wide receivers like Julio Jones. Instead, Marshon Lattimore should focus too on locking down players like Calvin Ridley, or his time with the Saints - and maybe even the NFL - won’t be much longer.
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