Saints senior writer John DeShazier picks the top five defensive backs the New Orleans Saints will face in 2015:
- Pay no attention to the numbers, because they can look somewhat pedestrian. Three interceptions and 10 passes defensed can equate to a good half-season, sometimes, for a cornerback. But Arizona's Patrick Peterson isn't just any cornerback; it's almost impossible to post great numbers when teams avoid you like a leper. The former LSU star remains at the top of his game – and at, or near, the top of the NFL charts – when it comes to elite, man-to-man, shut-down-No. 1-receiver cornerbacks. Peterson admittedly got a bit sloppy with his technique last season, and he said that his diabetes attributed to his down season. But he's a two-time All-Pro and four-time Pro Bowler who's entering his fifth season, and he's poised to improve.
- Is Vontae Davis a really good cornerback, or a guy who has good-looking numbers because he's being targeted? Either way you choose, it can't be denied that the stat line for the Colts cornerback – four interceptions and 22 passes defensed last season – is pretty impressive. He has 17 career picks in six years, eight in his three seasons with the Colts. The Saints know firsthand how important it is to have good cornerbacks; Davis is that for the Colts.
- Tampa Bay had the fifth-worst pass defense in the league last season, allowing 255.2 yards per game. If there was a bright spot in the secondary, it probably was Johnthan Banks, who had four interceptions and 14 passes defensed. In order for the Buccaneers to make the kind of jump they want to make defensively, they're going to need the corners to step up – actually, they're going to need everyone to step up. But it helps to have a corner who's better than average, so that the other positions can be addressed. Banks looks to have his spot locked down nicely.
- The Giants still are waiting for a breakout season fromPrince Amukamara, their first-round pick in 2011. Last year was his best NFL season, with three interceptions and 15 passes defensed. So why is he on the list? Because those numbers were achieved in half a season; Amukamara tore his biceps in his eighth game. Amukamara could make the jump to "NFL elite" if he can stay healthy and on track with last year's production.
- There wasn't much good to say about Atlanta's defense last season. Well, OK, honestly, there was nothing good to say about Atlanta's defense in 2014. But former Southeast Louisiana star Robert Alford looks like he's a keeper. He had three interceptions and 15 passes defensed last year, and seems to be a playmaker in a secondary that desperately will need a couple if the Falcons' defense is to improve. Strong secondary play is essential in the defensive system of new Coach Dan Quinn, who wants to implement the defensive scheme that he orchestrated as Seattle's defensive coordinator. Alford may not be Richard Sherman, but he's the best Atlanta has and should be better under Quinn.
Photos of Keenan Lewis from the 2014 season. Photos by Michael C. Hebert. (New Orleans Saints photos)