(Metairie, Louisiana). (AP) — During Wednesday's minicamp practice, Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore made a dramatic play by intercepting a pass from Spencer Rattler intended for receiver Bub Means. Lattimore leaped up to snag the ball from Means, sparking a brief celebration among the defensive players on the sideline.


Lattimore aims to remind the NFL that he is still the league's top cornerback, a positive sign for the Saints' secondary, which performed admirably without him in the final seven games of 2023.

“Our pass defense was one of our strengths last season,” said Saints coach Dennis Allen, a former Texas A&M safety and the secondary coach for the Saints' 2009 championship team.

The Saints ranked 10th in pass defense in 2023, allowing an average of 207.3 passing yards per game. Cornerback Paulson Adebo and veteran safety Tyrann Mathieu each had four interceptions, tying for the team lead.

Both Adebo and Mathieu return this season, along with versatile defensive back Alontae Taylor, a 2022 second-round draft pick, and veteran safety Johnathan Abram, who performed well alongside Mathieu late last season.

The Saints also strengthened their defensive backfield by drafting former Alabama standout Kool-Aid McKinstry in the second round.

With Lattimore back, Saints defensive coordinator Joe Woods feels confident in his secondary. “I now have four cornerbacks capable of starting in the NFL,” Woods said, comparing this group to when he coached Denzel Ward, Martin Emerson Jr., Greg Newsome II, and Greedy Williams in Cleveland.

“When you have four guys who can start, you can create matchups from the corner position, which builds confidence,” Woods said. "I feel good about this group. They’re talented and will match up well against many teams.”

Currently, the Saints want Taylor to play nickel back, despite his struggles at that spot last season. Taylor, initially a cornerback, had difficulty adjusting to the diverse routes of slot receivers. Now, however, he “understands it better,” according to Woods. "He’s definitely further along.”

Lattimore, a first-round draft pick and AP Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2017, has faced uncertainty this offseason due to recent injuries. He has played in only 17 games over the past two seasons, with just two interceptions.

Lattimore chose to train independently recently, skipping voluntary offseason practices in New Orleans. While trade rumors have circulated about the Saints' highest-paid defender, Allen described these speculations as external.


Upon arriving at mandatory minicamp, Lattimore expressed no concern about potential trades. “It’s all business,” he said. “I’m not worried about getting traded. I understand that people may doubt me after two injury-plagued years. I just need to prove them wrong.”

Mathieu believes that if Lattimore stays healthy and maintains his competitive mindset, he will return to his peak performance. Woods noted that the past two years were challenging for Lattimore due to “freakish injuries” to his ribs, kidney, and ankle.

“People may have forgotten his status in the league,” Woods said. “So, he might have a chip on his shoulder.”

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