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Saints secondary is as versatile as they come

With the signings of Tyrann Mathieu and Marcus Maye and recent draft picks, the Saints now boast one of the league’s most versatile defensive backfields.

NFL: AFC Championship-Cincinnati Bengals at Kansas City Chiefs Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Saints secondary was very good last year, but it wasn’t quite as versatile as it will be this upcoming season.

With the recent signings and draft picks Saints head coach Dennis has signed off on, I bet he’s licking his chops to deploy as unpredictable a coverage scheme as he’ll be able to with this group of defensive backs.

Newly signed safeties Tyrann Mathieu and Marcus Maye come from very different schemes in Kansas City and New York, but both possess positional versatility in the back end of the defense.

Mathieu, otherwise known as the “Honey Badger,” started his professional career off primarily as a slot corner but has transitioned into a hybrid safety through the years. Last year, the majority of his snaps (504) came in the box as a strong safety, but he also spent a lot of time in the slot (241 snaps) and at free safety (308 snaps).

The year before that, he played 15 more slot snaps than strong safety snaps, with a little free safety mixed in there as well. He’s basically the Taysom Hill of the defensive side of the ball, when it comes to versatility.

The Honey Badger is a vocal leader for every defense he plays on and has great instincts when it comes to play recognition, as well as breaking on deep passes.

He’s able to play pretty much any role in zone coverage, whether it’s in the flats, the curl/hook area or deep. The Chiefs played a lot of Cover 2 Zone, and Mathieu was able to cover any ground his team needed to make them more unpredictable as a unit to opposing quarterbacks.

I’d suspect Dennis Allen will utilize this versatility to do the same, in addition to Marcus Maye.

Maye was hurt for much of last year, but since his rookie year he’s played the majority of his snaps from the deep safety position. While that is his primary position, he poses much more of a threat in the box or slot than Marcus Williams did.

Maye played 581 of his snaps at free safety, 280 in the box and 167 in the slot in 2020, while Williams played 922 at deep safety and only 87 in the box and 21 in the slot in 2021.

While I definitely won’t make the argument that Maye is better than Williams, because you’d be hard pressed to find a better free safety in the league better than MW, I will say Maye allows Dennis Allen to switch around looks and coverages with more flexibility.

Add this to the fact that Chauncey Gardner-Johnson and P.J. Williams can play both safety and slot corner, Bradley Roby can play outside corner or in the slot and even rookies Alontae Taylor and Smoke Monday present positional flexibility – and you’ve got yourself a movable and switchable defensive backfield that can give QBs a very tough time figuring out.

I personally can’t wait to see what coach Allen does with this defense, and particularly the secondary.


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