The New Orleans Saints had one of the most underwhelming years in a decade this season for many reasons. However, while missing Lattimore for the majority of the year, the secondary did more than enough to win games.
The Saints had the second-best passing defense in the NFL (184.4 YPG) only behind Philly (175.9).
A big part of that success was rookie Alontae Taylor. Taylor missed some games early then proceeded to hit the ground running. With Lattimore injured, Dennis Allen pretty much threw Taylor to the wolves… DA often gave Taylor the Lattimore treatment (having him on an island with the opposing team’s X receiver.) It worked out way more often than not.
#Saints rookie Alontae Taylor is really good.— Ross Jackson (@RossJacksonNOLA) December 17, 2022
Per PFF, among CBs with 200+ coverage snaps:
- 63.8 passer rating when targeted (6th lowest)
- 49% completion percentage allowed (5th lowest)
- 246 receiving yards allowed (5th lowest)
- Longest reception allowed: 20 yards (T-lowest) pic.twitter.com/BiU6xS9cRP
Paulson Adebo showed clear second-year regression but also showed some bright spots. He seemed to be the weak link more often than not. However, Adebo did seem to be the best tackling DB on the team by a decent margin. Lattimore would’ve rivaled him for that title if he played more games.
Tyrann Mathieu turned around his slow start (mainly due to missed tackles) and finished the year very strong, getting better with time. Mathieu was ranked as a top-five safety by PFF.
In his 10th NFL season, @Mathieu_Era posted a career-high 91 tackles ⚜️— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) January 10, 2023
In the regular season finale at the Dome, the New Orleans native tallied eight total tackles, an INT, and a forced fumble pic.twitter.com/GXVrOWuHyK
Marcus Maye missed a lot of time but looked promising in the limited snaps we saw him. No verdict out on him yet, but no need to be pessimistic.
Bradley Roby was good. Inconsistent throughout the year but played pretty solid considering the circumstances. I think New Orleans should run it back with him for depth.
Overall, the consistency and personnel at nickel position seemed to fluctuate throughout the year. In the previous years, Ceedy Deuce had it on lock. This year, DA seemed to experiment around with what worked best. Losing Ceedy was never an idea I agreed with but again, the pass defense remained exceptional (#2 in football). This was without arguably the best cornerback in football for most of the year.
Lattimore was all-world in his limited time on the field, looking better than ever. If you exclude the Minnesota game in which he allowed 7/93/0 to Justin Jefferson… Lattimore allowed just TWO catches in the other four games previous to his injury. Objectively, I think he’s quite easily the best corner in football.
The future is bright for this secondary. They put together a great season and that’s despite all of the starters not getting any reps together.
DA may need to look into permanently moving Alontae to the outside alongside Lattimore, with Adebo/Roby rotating at nickel. Bringing back both Mathieu and Maye is most likely the best option for New Orleans at safety. Daniel Sorensen also looked bright in a lot of spots this year as well so he could remain a solid depth piece.
Chris Harris Jr looked his age and could/should be replaced for a more versatile/younger CB but played good enough considering his circumstances (rust/age).
Overall, I’d say the secondary deserves a B+ grade at least. While being injury plagued, they still made plays to get the team off the field. They were very solid statistically and the eye test showed them to be even better. They held it down despite the pass rush being nonexistent at times and next year will be even better.