When Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore was arrested in Cleveland last March for the fourth-degree felony of receiving a stolen firearm, it felt like an inevitability that the CB would be suspended before the season. However, with the preseason in the books and the regular season creeping ever closer, it looks more and more likely that Lattimore will be able to suit up against the Green Bay Packers.
That means that his Week 1 matchup would be against the Packers’ Davante Adams — AKA a top three (and possibly the best) receiver in the NFL.
Last season, Adams lived up to that status. The superstar caught a franchise-record 115 passes in 2020 for 1,374 yards and 18 touchdowns. Furthermore, he did this in just 14 games. If Adams had caught two more touchdowns, he would have joined Randy Moss and Jerry Rice as the only receivers in NFL history to score 20 TDs in a season. Hallowed ground is an understatement.
All of this is to say: Davante Adams is very good, and Lattimore will have his hands full in the season opener if he’s shadowing him. Adams didn’t play last season when the Saints played the Packers in Week 3, meaning the only time they’ve faced off was in 2017 when Lattimore was a rookie. Lattimore had the upper hand in that showdown, holding Adams to two catches on five targets in a 26-17 win. While an encore performance would be nice, that was before Adams truly broke out into the receiver he is now.
This begets the question: How can Lattimore slow down the star?
Adams presents a lot of issues for Lattimore. Lattimore does his best against big, physical receivers. He has a a physicality to him that makes him very difficult to beat off the line of scrimmage with hand-fighting, something the best receivers excel at. Where he has a few more issues is against elite route running and an explosive first step, two key components of Adams’ game.
Off the line of scrimmage, Lattimore can combat Adams’ ridiculous skill by playing a bit further off than he generally would against a receiver of Adams’ caliber. While that feels counter-intuitive, it lets Lattimore see the route develop. It also gives Marcus Williams time to see if he’s going to need help down the field.
This leads into the other key way for the Saints to work against Adams: They can’t leave Lattimore on an island. While some deference will have to be given to whomever is starting opposite Lattimore in the secondary, the reality is that Adams is far and away the biggest threat the Packers have. Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Allen Lazard had just 33 catches apiece last year. Adams has to be the priority, no matter how much faith the Saints may have in Lattimore.
Ultimately, you aren’t going to beat the Packers by confusing Aaron Rodgers. He’s too good and too precise. The Saints are going to have to put a lot on Lattimore, but he’s proven to be up to the task before. While his strengths may not align particularly well with stopping a player like Adams, he tends to show up against elite receivers. He’ll have to do so in a big way if the Saints defense is going to slow down the Packers offense on Sunday.
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