New Orleans spent the offseason trying to upgrade the cornerback position by any means necessary.
Bringing in Delvin Breaux has paid bigger dividends than anybody could have imagined.
Breaux, forced into the starting lineup right away by a preseason injury to Keenan Lewis, is establishing himself as arguably the Saints’ No. 1 corner, a player New Orleans is handing more responsibility with each passing week.
“Delvin Breaux is playing his heart out,” Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said. “We’ve given him some tough matchups, and he’s done a great job.”
Breaux has broken up five passes, and he made the first interception of his career against the Eagles. He’s been so good that the other teams’ No. 1 receivers have rarely put up big numbers against the Saints, even though the defense has struggled overall.
The first-year corner’s physical style has led to too many penalties — he’s been flagged seven times — but the rest of his play has been so good that the Saints are giving him more and more responsibility each week.
“We’ve had him a lot of times where he has had absolutely no help.,” Ryan said. “He is on a receiver with absolutely no help, which some people don’t see by the coverage or whatever it is, and he has excelled. He is up for all of the challenges.”
Breaux relishes the role.
“That’s my game. I like 1-on-1, mano-a-mano, me vs. you,” Breaux said. “All corners want to be that island.”
Breaux has been so good that he will likely continue to man the outside once Lewis returns to full strength. Lewis has played 29.7 percent of the snaps the past two weeks, and when he enters the game, Breaux stays on the outside, with Brandon Browner moving inside to play coverage underneath.
Breaux’s rise up the depth chart has been meteoric, a lot like his journey from the semipro ranks to the CFL and a role with the Saints.
“The fact that I’m starting to cover other teams’ No. 1 receiver and following them around, I think that says a lot,” Breaux said. “I just try to stay humble, just compete, study film a lot and make sure my job is secure at the end of the day.”
When Andrus Peat watched the film of his first full start in the NFL, he came away thinking exactly what his first impression had been after the game.
There was a lot of good to build a foundation, but Peat also saw plenty that needs to get better after he gave up a sack, two quarterback hits and a run stuff in 69 plays against the Eagles.
“Cleaning up some technique, footwork, just to put me in better position against the opponent,” Peat said.
Peat gave up another sack, but Drew Brees held the ball for more than three seconds on the play, beyond the normal amount of time to get the ball out of the pocket.
Nonetheless, the New Orleans coaching staff was pleased with the first-round pick’s opening act under the gun.
“He was solid,” Sean Payton said. “Look, there were some movement issues at times off the play action, but I thought he did a lot of good things.”
A play-action pass block is nothing like a normal passing down, when Peat can get into a normal pass blocking situation.
“It’s definitely different selling the run fake,” Peat said. “It’s just something I’ve got to practice a little more.”
Next man up
Wide receiver Marques Colston and offensive tackle Terron Armstead likely will not play Thursday night against the Atlanta Falcons, as both players are listed as doubtful for the contest.
Colston is battling a shoulder injury he suffered during Sunday’s 39-17 loss to Philadelphia Eagles. If he is out, Brandon Coleman could see an increase in snaps, and the Saints re-signed Joe Morgan this week.
Armstead did not play against the Eagles after injuring his knee against the Dallas Cowboys. If he does not play, Peat will likely start in his place. The Saints have ruled out guard Tim Lelito (shoulder), punter Thomas Morstead (right quadriceps), and cornerback Damian Swann (concussion). Defensive end Bobby Richardson is questionable.