Kristian: Cornerback spot is one to watch at Saints camp
by Kristian Garic,posted Jul 20 2014 11:09AM
The Saints might have one of the deepest teams on paper, and certainly one of the more talented rosters in the NFL. However, with some changes on defense and offense, there are some pretty interesting battles shaping up in camp. Several other teams are wondering who their starting QB might be; that's not the case in New Orleans as we know, but nonetheless here are some key areas to watch. Let's look at cornerback first.
Who's going to line up opposite of Keenan Lewis at Corner when the Saints are in their "base?" Being a starter at cornerback in the NFL is sometimes misleading, or maybe not always important. For the Saints the cornerback is up for grabs, but so is nickel back and dime back. The Saints have tremendous flexibility with Kenny Vaccaro at safety, with his ability to play inside on slot receivers.
Champ Bailey: Champ certainly has the experience element in his favor. The future hall of famer came to New Orleans to win a championship, and brings a ton of knowledge to a relatively young group. Bailey was one of the first shut down cornerbacks in the NFL. He's played 15 seasons in the league with the Redskins and Broncos. If he has the gas left in the tank, he'll likely be the starter opposite Lewis this season. Teams will test him early and often to find out if he's even close to 100% recovered from his foot injury that plagued his play last season.
Corey White: White was thrust into the starting line up last season after Jabari Greer went down with an injury in the middle of the season. The 3rd year pro played well at times, but was clearly the target of offensive game plans during the back half of the season. Let's be clear, the Saints wouldn't have added two players to the position group if they had complete confidence in White. NFL analyst Mike Detillier thinks White is more of a complimentary guy than a starter. "He's a nickel player; he can help you in the slot but he's vulnerable as the starter. White's not dominant in one particular area but solid in most." White will likely make the final roster, but as a nickel or dime back.
Stanley Jean-Baptiste: The Saints followed the trend and went for a super sized cornerback in the 2nd round of 2014 Draft, grabbing Jean-Baptiste. First, when you have a hyphened last name it's always cool. The Saints have typically brought rookies along slowly and I expect that to continue this year with Stan. The Saints love his size, but will find a very safe role for him this season in the nickel and dime packages. He's a future starter for New Orleans, just not the 2014 future. He's a monster at 6'3" 200 lbs, but still has some things to learn.
Rod Sweeting: Sweeting saw his role increase from special teams to more and more snaps on defense last season. He'll scratch and claw his way to the final 53 roster, but his impact will be felt on special teams. Sweeting is a good insurance policy if the Saints suffer some injuries at CB. He's got good size at 6' and 190, but lacks the ideal tools to be starter in the league according to Detillier: "He's tough, and he's smart but doesn't lack the elite skill set to make him one of the starters. He could be a nickel guy or spot starter if needed, but you will see teams test him every time he's in there until he proves himself." Think special teams with Sweeting.
Patrick Robinson: It's amazing to think Robinson is the teams former first round pick in 2010. Robinson's season was cut short last season with a knee injury in week 2 of the season. P-Rob is a bit of an afterthought in this conversation. He's never really lived up to his 1st round status, but at the same time, he hasn't been terrible either. Robinson is fighting for his roster spot in this training camp. Consider that White and Sweeting are both cheaper to keep, and that could be the deciding factor if the play on the field is equal.
As I mentioned before, the Saints are going to keep three safeties and that will impact how many cornerbacks they'll keep in 2014. Kenny Vaccaro's versatility provides the Saints with great flexibility in terms of the numbers they operate with this season. I expect Lewis, Bailey, White, Jean-Baptiste, and Sweeting to make the final roster. The Saints need some roster depth for special teams and offensive line.