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The Saints need prime Marshon Lattimore in 2021

The former first round pick needs to live up to his full potential.

NFL: New Orleans Saints Training Camp Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

It felt like a win for the New Orleans Saints back in 2017, when prized cornerback prospect Marshon Lattimore out of Ohio State fell to them with the 11th overall pick in the 2017 draft. It felt like even more of a win when Lattimore lived up to the billing and more, helping the Saints win their first division title since 2011 and break a three-year playoff drought. Lattimore’s efforts were rewarded with him being named the 2017 Defensive Rookie of the Year and it was looking like Lattimore was well on his way to being a staple of Dennis Allen’s secondary for years to come.

In the years since, however, Lattimore has struggled to live up to the standard that he set for himself during his rookie year.

2017 Marshon Lattimore was a nightmare to throw against. He finished the season with a 51.2 passer rating against, only giving up 583 yards when in coverage and not allowing a single touchdown. In fact, only one player during Lattimore’s rookie year played more coverage snaps without allowing a touchdown (A.J. Bouye, then of the Jacksonville Jaguars). That stat has since vanished, as Lattimore’s allowed 13 touchdowns in the three years that have followed, including 8 in 2020 alone.

Marshon Lattimore Coverage Stats

Season Targets Receptions Rec % Yards YPC TD INT PBU Pass Rtg Penalties
Season Targets Receptions Rec % Yards YPC TD INT PBU Pass Rtg Penalties
2017 80 43 53.75% 583 13.6 0 5 13 51.2 7
2018 84 54 64.29% 841 15.6 2 4 6 85.5 3
2019 82 46 56.10% 664 14.4 3 1 10 89.7 6
2020 87 50 57.47% 669 13.4 8 2 11 103.1 11

This year, more than ever, the Saints need Lattimore to step up.

Prior to the 2020 season, the Saints exercised the fifth-year option on Lattimore to extend his rookie contract through the 2021 season. This time last year, we were in the same spot with the former Ohio State product, wondering just how long he could coast off of his rookie season before he took the step into being the elite cornerback that he showed he could be in 2017. If Lattimore could bring back that form in 2020, the Saints would be set and comfortable to offer him a long-term deal to keep him in New Orleans long-term. However, Lattimore struggled. His 103. 1 passer rating against was the worst of his four-year career and the worst of all Saints defensive backs. He committed 11 penalties as well, most of his career and most of the Saints’ defense.

That leads us into 2021, where Marshon Lattimore will be a free agent at the end of the season on a New Orleans Saints team that’s already projected $24 million over the cap (per Spotrac). If Lattimore struggles again, he could be one of the pieces that the Saints sacrifice in order to make up for the risks taken during the end of the Drew Brees era.

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