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New Orleans Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore locks in on quest to become an all-time great

'I just know what I have to do to be one of the best, and I want to be great'

Frequently in the New Orleans Saints training camp, during team and individual drills, a bead of sweat has been the margin of separation between Marshon Lattimore and a receiver.

Regardless of who has been the receiver, the Saints' fourth-year cornerback has been working at a level that seems notable even for a player who is as accomplished as he is – NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2017 and two-time Pro Bowler in his first three seasons.

There has been a steady level of excellence so far, an avoidance of any dips or lapses in concentration. But Lattimore wants to keep August greatness in its proper perspective.

"I know deep down that I can be consistent," said Lattimore, who opens the season with eight career interceptions (one returned for a touchdown), 44 passes defensed, four fumble recoveries and five forced fumbles. "But right now, it's too early (to say he has achieved the consistency level he wants). I have a long way to go to really test that consistency. But I can do it.

"It's just not getting bored, not underestimating any receiver, credit every receiver like they're (Atlanta's) Julio Jones or (Saints teammate) Mike Thomas – the top receivers. That's really what it is, with my consistency. But I believe I can do it."

If the first step in solving the issue is to admit that there actually is an issue, the Lattimore is on the proper course.

"You just hit it on the head, because everybody's not going to be Julio Jones," Aaron Glenn, the Saints' secondary coach, responded when asked about Lattimore being locked in on every play. "Everybody's not going to be (Tampa Bay's) Mike Evans. They're not going to be the top-notch guys where they force you to be locked in.

"My philosophy is you are going to battle those really good guys, but the guys you are going to dominate, you have to dominate them. There are no bad players in this league but there are different levels of players. The Julio Jones', you have to battle that guy. Mike Evans, you have to battle that guy.

"Other receivers, I need you to dominate that guy. There are going to be times when you don't have any help. You have to dominate that guy. That's where his focus has to be. When it's time to dominate, dominate. When it's time to battle, we're going to battle.

"They're going to make some catches; they're good players too. But you need to have a locked in mentality every time you line up. I always ask him the question, 'Are you being intentional?' I want to see your body language being intentional, locked in, focused, your eyes are tight on that guy and ready to go. He's doing a really good job of that."

Glenn hasn't been shy about challenging Lattimore, to make sure that Lattimore squeezes the best from himself.

"Marshon's the type that being easy on him, letting him get away with little things, he doesn't respond well to that," Glenn said. "He's the type that wants the criticism.

"He wants you to tell him about the little things that he's doing wrong, because he wants to take his game to the next level. I've always done it to him since his rookie year, he and (safety) Marcus (Williams) both. They react to it really, really well. I expect some great things out of him this year. I always have and I do every year with him."

Probably, Glenn doesn't expect greater things from Lattimore than does Lattimore. The No. 11 overall pick in the '17 NFL Draft said he's willing to do the work to reach the status he seeks.

"Just tuning up everything," he said. "Everything that I see that I need to work on, I'm working on it, staying after practice doing just little stuff, taking care of my body, in the meeting room just going over it and paying attention to every little detail. So far, that's been treating me well. I've got to just keep it up and keep going.

"I just know what I have to do to be one of the best, and I want to be great. So I have to. I have to go out there and do what I have to do. If you want to be great, you're going to tune up any little thing that you need to tune up. And that's just where I'm at with it."

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