Marshon Lattimore acknowledged a desire to be more consistent entering last season and now, it's a word the New Orleans Saints cornerback hopes to have laid to rest.
"I think I did good, but I've always got room to get better," said Lattimore, the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2017. "I think I gave up too much, in my eyes, but that's just me being me, me wanting to be great. I don't like giving up anything, so anything I give up, I feel like I could have done something better, I could have done something to prevent it.
"I feel like the consistency is there. A lot of people just ran with that, with I'm inconsistent. Like, plays happen. Stuff happens. We're all in the league for a reason and sometimes they might get me. Of course, I don't want them to, but I think people just ran with that, the me being inconsistent thing. Because I feel like I'm the best in the league."
Lattimore finished '20 with two interceptions and 11 passes defensed, with 40 incompletions forced on 85 targets, and a career high 62 tackles, with two tackles for loss. He also was a Pro Bowler for the third time and in his mind, Lattimore plays the position as well as anyone.
"I do," he said. "That's just me being confident in myself and knowing what I can do out there, and what I've done out there. I feel like I'm the best. I do."
Wherever it is that he ranks, secondary coach Kris Richard knows he has a good one to coach. Richard coached Seattle's Legion of Boom secondary, with three All-Pros, and also has been a defensive coordinator prior to joining New Orleans' staff this offseason.
"Incredible competitive mind-set and athleticism," Richard said. "The dude, he's a baller. That's the simplest way to put it, is that the guy's a baller.
"Technique, consistency, is where (improvement can come). And that's for everybody, and that will never, ever change, so that's not him in particular. Everybody is technique, eye discipline, sense of urgency, key recognition, formations – all these different things like that are where we're looking to improve everyone each and every single day.
"But absolutely, the things that stood out about him is incredibly gifted athlete, and competitive, tough. Tough kid."
Lattimore's play has been pivotal in the Saints' defensive improvement in recent seasons, and his presence at right cornerback has become a given; he has started every game he has played, 57 in regular season and seven in the playoffs. His focus could be tested in '21; the Saints released starting left cornerback Jackrabbit Jenkins, who combined with Lattimore to give New Orleans one of the league's best duos. So opponents could opt to not try Lattimore if the belief is that success will be more easily attained on the other side.
"Teams that know, they know what's going on," Lattimore said. "Teams still try, I've just got to be prepared, that's what it comes down to.
"All game, they won't throw my way and then they'll get me when I least expect it. That goes into that inconsistency type of talk. But they're not out there, they don't know how it is. But when it comes to that, just having somebody on the other side is beautiful. We did it last year, we're going to have to try to continue to do the same thing this year."