Will the competition at corner bring out the best of the young player?
It was clear all of last off-season that the biggest hole in this New Orleans Saints defense was the number two cornerback spot opposite Marshon Lattimore. The team made it known by being ultra-aggressive in last year’s draft attempting to move into the top ten to select now Denver Broncos cornerback Patrick Surtain Jr, or the Carolina Panthers Jaycee Horn. When the move itself did not pan out, the team waited until the third round to get their guy by selecting Stanford product Paulson Adebo. Many were skeptical about whether or not Adebo was the answer at the number two corner position. Not only were the fans unsure, but the front office as well.
Three days before the team’s week one regular season matchup against the Green Bay Packers, it was announced that the team had sent a third-round pick to the Houston Texans to acquire their starting cornerback Bradley Roby as well as a conditional sixth round pick in return. Every Saints fan and even the team planned on Roby coming in right away and solidifying himself as a starter for the Saints defense. But all it took was a week one Roby suspension to quickly alter those plans…
The rookie corner Adebo made his debut starting alongside Lattimore in a 38-3 blowout against the Aaron Rodgers led Green Bay Packers. Adebo was targeted only four times allowing one catch, breaking up a pass and recording his first interception as a Saint. What a way to start his young career.
That performance alone was enough to keep Roby on the bench for the time being.
Adebo was able to stay consistent for much of the season and really outperformed his draft selection. There were some hiccups at times and a few rough moments but by the back half of the season Adebo started opening a lot of eyes around the league. He rarely let up big plays, he was always in phase and battled through every pass even if he could not break it up or come up with the ball. He finished the season allowing 55 receptions on 89 targets, with eight pass breakups and three interceptions.
One of my main takeaways of last season was his ability to play fast. Watching Adebo play in comparison to the first-round cornerback talent of his class, I find little difference in the way each of them move. He is big, long, fast and plays up to speed. Today’s prototypical corner. I was also very impressed with his fearless nature in the run game. There were many outside runs or runs that bounced outside where Adebo missiles through the screen to come up with a huge tackle for loss. Another aspect of the game that the Saints love in their corners.
Oh, and his ball skills might just be on par with the likes of Odell Beckham Jr. (am I joking though?)
Paulson Adebo One Handed Interception! pic.twitter.com/GHja2tcIkM
— The GOAT House (@GoatHouseNFL) January 9, 2022
Some of the things Adebo struggled with last year were getting hands on receivers at the line of scrimmage and some fluidity issues with his hips at times which is always tough for a bigger corner. But of course, everything can be developed and crafted if you put the work in, which it definitely seems Adebo is doing having heard his coaches and teammates raving about his development and work ethic this offseason.
Overall, I saw a ton of effort, a ton of willingness and many hints of competitive nature in Adebo’s game. I believe these tangibles combined with maturation and some fine tuning of his technique; we could really see Adebo become one of the better corners in our league.
Going into this season though, the pressure is on right away. With the team bringing back the player he once beat out in Bradley Roby and the high draft selection of Alontae Taylor this year, Adebo has to make every snap count during training camp to secure his position on defense. We will see if Adebo can elevate his game to keep his competitors out of reach this summer as training camp continues.