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Cornerback Alontae Taylor set to build on solid debut in starting lineup for New Orleans Saints

'I think I'm mentally there, and physicality is something that I bring to the table'

New Orleans Saints players in action during their 2022 Week 7 game against the Arizona Cardinals.
New Orleans Saints players in action during their 2022 Week 7 game against the Arizona Cardinals.

Alontae Taylor looks to be worth the wait.

Obviously, no one will want to dive too deep into the pool of effusive over the New Orleans Saints' second-round draft pick, after the cornerback made his first NFL start eight days ago against the Arizona Cardinals.

It only was his second NFL game, and he has spent more time sidelined by injuries – most recently, a knee problem that required a trip to injured reserve and four missed games – than on the field during the regular season.

But what New Orleans envisioned from Taylor when he was drafted – a big (6 feet 1, 199 pounds), physical cornerback who was eager to play to those traits – is exactly what he showed over the course of his starting debut in a nationally televised, prime-time game. He likely will get his second start Sunday, when the Saints (2-5) play the Raiders (2-4) in the Caesars Superdome.

The aggressive Taylor said he played press coverage for 98 percent of the snaps he was on the field, and finished with a pass defended and three tackles against the Cardinals, with just one reception allowed.

"Really, just doing my job," Taylor said. "It was super exciting waking up, and knowing it was a night game so I had a little bit more time to really just get myself mentally prepared for it, but super excited. I felt like I had a lot of confidence in myself and the role that I was playing, so it was just going out there and playing football.

"Just be me. I don't change nothing about me. I think I'm mentally there, and physicality is something that I bring to the table. It's something that I'll continue to bring. The more I get comfortable in the position, I feel like I can loosen up a little bit and just change that physicality at certain points of my press-man (coverage)."

To a degree, Taylor was pressed into action. The Saints badly needed his services against the Cardinals, due to an attrition-stricken secondary.

Both starting cornerbacks, Marshon Lattimore and Paulson Adebo, missed the game due to injuries and a possible replacement, P.J. Williams, is on injured reserve due to an injury. Taylor and Bradley Roby started at cornerback, and even Roby was injured during the game. Taylor held up well, though he cramped later in the game due to the fact that he simply hadn't had that many game reps at cornerback.

"It was a positive," Saints co-defensive coordinator/secondary coach Kris Richard said. "Positive experience for him and the entire organization. Good to get him back out there and healthy, and just watch him compete. He's an ultra-competitor. Loved his technique. He had a missed tackle out there, and we want better. But he's got great confidence, real good boost for our team.

"Uber confident. Really aggressive in coverage. Coverage intensity is there, and he doesn't back down from anyone."

Taylor, who played in the first two games of the season and was credited with a pass defended against Tampa Bay, was a tough grader of his work.

"I'm kind of hard on myself, so overall I ended up giving myself a C-minus, because those two missed tackles were crucial in the game and then the one catch given up," he said. "But at the end of the day it was my first start, my first NFL game, so I'm looking to improve for sure."

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