There was a time where Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore was considered one of the top young shutdown corners in the league. During his rookie season, Pro Football Focus gave Lattimore an 87.7 grade in pass coverage, the highest among rookies that year and the highest of Lattimore’s career. After that incredible rookie campaign that earned him Defensive Rookie of the Year honors, Lattimore posted a 71.7 grade, a 68.7, and a 53.7, in that order. Lattimore did experience a bounce back in 2021 though, posting a 76.4 coverage grade, the 21st-highest among qualified cornerbacks.
You would think that kind of figure would re-establish Lattimore as a shutdown corner, but his raw numbers would suggest otherwise. People love to mock Trevon Diggs for giving up over 1,000 yards in coverage last season, but don’t share the same sentiment toward Lattimore, who allowed the second-most yards in the league and recorded less than one-third the interceptions that Diggs did. Most Lattimore stans will point to his completion percentage against (57.4 percent) as a reason to be optimistic, but then turn around and criticize Diggs for allowing a 57.3 completion percentage on only two more targets than his NOLA counterpart.
On a strictly statistical basis, more people should be hounding Lattimore than Diggs, yet he’s managed to stay in the public’s good graces. Lattimore was almost a liability on deep throws in 2021. Quarterbacks loved to target Lattimore on deep routes. Of the 100 corners to allow the most yards in coverage in 2021, Lattimore had the fourth-highest average depth of target (Eric Stokes, Casey Hayward Jr., and Ambry Thomas). That’s not only a bad sign for his yards allowed, but also his completion percentage against. You’d think someone who gets thrown at deep so often would have a much better completion percentage against than Lattimore does.
Here are a few of the top WRs the Saints will face in 2022.
That’s a gauntlet. An insane gauntlet, and while Lattimore has seen success in the past against some of these names (i.e.: Week 1 2021, Adams held to five catches, 56 yards; Week 15 2021, Evans held to 1 catch, 14 yards), he’s also had his struggles against guys like Cooper Kupp prior to 2021.
I’m not calling Lattimore overrated just yet, but he needs to prove that 2021 wasn’t a fluke. A new head coach doesn’t instill much confidence though, and with that many great receivers on his slate for 2022, I wouldn’t be shocked if Lattimore allows more yards than he did in 2021, and Diggs may not be there to take the brunt of the media bombardment this time around.
Lattimore has never been a ball hawk. The most interceptions he’s ever recorded in a season was five and that was his rookie season. Even Diggs could fall back on the turnovers he forced when people went after him, but Lattimore can’t. He has to rely on being a solid open-field tackler to defend himself, but strictly as a coverage corner, Lattimore leaves a lot to be desired. He’s the X-factor that will determine how far the Saints go in 2022. If he can’t limit those yards, that could spell disaster for his team.
I genuinely believe that Lattimore is a better corner than Diggs. He sticks on his receivers with much greater ease, and his stellar tackling keeps those receivers from breaking for big yardage after the catch. However, Diggs has much better ball skills than Lattimore and, without those ball skills, Lattimore also struggles limiting big plays. They’re different types of corners who end up with similar results yardage-wise, but while one is viewed in a very divisive light, the other is viewed as an all-around solid corner and pivotal part of the Saints’ defense. Please, let’s start holding every corner to the same standards.