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John DeShazier: Saints cornerback hierarchy not set

Payton: 'We've got to get better there'

Photos from 2017 Saints Training Camp presented by Verizon at Ochsner Sports Performance Center on July 28, 2017.

Don't bother with a permanent marker, because football rarely is a permanent-marker type of occupation and, especially now, it's useless in certain cases for the New Orleans Saints.

Instead, regarding the team's cornerback hierarchy, Coach Sean Payton suggested a different kind of instrument with which to log the pecking order.

"None of those guys are in ink," Payton said Friday, after New Orleans' second training camp practice at the Ochsner Sports Performance Center. "That would be a position that's in pencil, and I mean that.

"We've got to be better there, we've got good competition. I think there's a number of players that are going to get reps with the first and second group, you'll see that moving a little bit. We'll see what kind of combination we can get and of course, we play a lot of three-corner defense. So we're going to need more than just two to play well."

One of the reasons for the lack of decisiveness at the position is this: Delvin Breaux and P.J. Williams played together for less than three quarters last season.

Breaux and Williams were the starting cornerbacks coming out of training camp, Breaux a No. 1-caliber corner with the tools to play any coverage requested, and Williams an emerging talent who played his way into a starting position.

But Breaux broke his fibula during the third quarter of the season opener against Oakland. He didn't dress the next week against the Giants, a game in which Williams suffered a concussion and didn't play again in 2016.

Breaux returned to play five more games but never returned to the form that coaches believed might result in a future Pro Bowl selection for him. And the Saints truly never got a good game look at the duo they expected to play significant roles in the secondary last year.

Meanwhile, Sterling Moore was signed just prior to the season, starting 12 of his 13 games and emerged as the team's top corner. And Ken Crawley, a free agent rookie in '16, started five of the 15 games he played.

With Breaux and Williams again healthy, the duo again is taking snaps with the No. 1 defense. As Payton said, they likely will rotate with others but for Breaux and Williams, at least they're beyond square one when it comes to being on the field with the starters.

"We had the OTAs, minicamp and we had training camp (last year)," Breaux said. "So we kind of built a bond off of that. Unfortunately, injuries happen but I think we're back and we're confident, even more confident."

He said the fact that it's an open competition only should make the group better.

"We all have to compete," Breaux said. "If we come in and say, 'This guy is this,' or, 'He's that,' a lot of guys won't work because they already are expecting it to be filled. It's always open, every year, because we want the best guys to play. You've got to keep coming out to training camp, busting your butt and make plays."

Breaux and Williams made enough of them to ascend to the top of the depth chart in '16. They're hoping to do so again in '17, post injuries.

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