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New Orleans Saints cornerback Alontae Taylor finding right fit in the slot

'He's got all the ability to be able to do it, the one thing he lacks is the experience in there'


Tuesday was the official cutdown day for many in the NFL, with players waived and contracts terminated as teams pared from the 90-man training camp rosters to the 53-man rosters that will take the field for the regular season.

For New Orleans Saints cornerback Alontae Taylor, it was Warp Speed Tuesday.

When the Saints terminated the contract of 10-year veteran Bradley Roby, the team's primary nickel cornerback, Taylor, who's entering his second season, immediately ascended into the spot.

He has worked in the slot during this offseason, but Taylor's success as a rookie came at cornerback, mainly in the absence of injured Paulson Adebo, and the two competed for the starting corner spot during training camp – often alternating days with the No. 1 defense – before New Orleans went all in on Taylor for the slot Tuesday.

Taylor, who admittedly has had some rough patches in the slot, assured Saints fans that they should remain calm.

"Don't be afraid about what's going on here," he said. "Have faith that I'll do what I have to do in the slot to help this team.

"Still have some work to do. But this is my role now, no longer having that competition with Adebo right now at outside corner, that helps me to be able to focus just on nickel, just focus on my responsibility. No longer have to just rep the playbook, now we can get a gameplan going for the (Tennessee) Titans (for the Sept. 10 season opener in the Caesars Superdome) and I can feel what my responsibility, what my job is and watch tape on who I'm about to face and I think that will get me ready."

Whatever misgivings Taylor might have had about being the nickel corner essentially had to evaporate once Roby was released.

"I'm extremely confident in that," Coach Dennis Allen said. "He's got all the ability to be able to do it, the one thing he lacks is the experience in there. And he'll gain that experience as he gets more and more playing time in there.

"We've got a lot of time between now and the time we line up against Tennessee, so that's where a lot of his focus will be."

Taylor, the Saints' second-round pick (No. 49 overall) last year, started nine of the 13 games he played as a rookie, including eight of nine from Games 7-15. He finished with 11 passes defensed and 46 tackles, and continually showed that the stage wasn't too big for him.

But with Adebo healthy, and the Saints seeking to get their best personnel on the field, Taylor began receiving slot work during OTAs and Adebo locked down the corner spot opposite Marshon Lattimore.

"I'm very blessed, just to come in as a rookie last year and have the success that I did," Taylor said. "And now being able to not only make the 53-man roster a second time, but to now have a starting job in the slot is a blessing for me.

"Now, just take in the growing pains that I have. I'm very competitive with myself, I feel like I'm really big on not making the same mistake twice. So I'll go through my growing pains, but I'll compete and continue to do the best that I can to help the team.

"At the end of the day, I just want to do whatever it takes to help the team win. I'm just going into my second year. It's a lot of weight on me but I feel like I can handle it, and I feel like the front office feels like I can handle it as well. So, like I said, just watch tape, take the notes that I need to take and I'm really leaning on (safety) Tyrann (Mathieu, who successfully has played nickel before) now to kind of help me in that position."

Even with the focus now primarily on playing in the slot, Taylor said he still will be capable of playing corner. Lattimore hasn't participated fully in practice, and didn't play in the final two preseason games, after injuring his knee during the second day of joint practices against the Chargers on Aug. 18.

"A lot of weight is gone now," Taylor said. "Now I can just focus on nickel, I can focus on doing my job there, but understanding that I can still play corner and if they ever need to put me back out there, I'll be ready to play it.

"But right now, my responsibility is the slot, so I'm going to bring my best foot forward every single day and get out there and get ready for Week 1."

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