Saints rookie CB Marshon Lattimore has had a phenomenal first 4 games to start off his first-ever season in the NFL, but this upcoming Sunday the former Ohio State star (and Saints top draft pick earlier this year) could face his toughest challenge yet.
That's because this Sunday in the Superdome, Lattimore will be matched up with the one player that has given the Saints defensive secondary fits for the last 3 straight years in a row: Detroit Lions #1 WR and former All-Pro Golden Tate.
Tate has figuratively (and literally) "owned" the Saints dating back to 2014, and has had a huge hand in helping the Lions to win all 3 of those contests in that time.
In 2014, Tate torched the Saints secondary for 154 yards on 10 receptions; including a 73-yard catch-and-run that helped the Lions come back from a 23-10 deficit, to win 24-23 at Ford Field in Detroit.
Then in 2015 at the Superdome, Tate didn't make a lot of noise numbers-wise, but still scored 2 important TD's that helped the Lions earn another win in NOLA.
And then of course there was last season, where Tate grabbed another 8 catches for 145 yards and a score while helping the Lions to an easy 28-13 win over the Saints at the Superdome.
Tate finished the 2016 season with 91 receptions for 1,077 yards and four touchdowns. He eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark for the second time in his career (the 2nd time in the past 3 seasons) and the 90-reception mark for the third straight year in a row, as well. In the past 3 years alone: Tate has an unbelievable 280 receptions for 3,221 yards.
Additionally, Tate's 676 yards "after the catch" (or YAC, as it's better known as) ranked #1 overall among all NFL wide receivers last year. It's why he's considered one of the most "dangerous" wide receiver threats in the entire League, and will be the focal point of the Saints defense this Sunday.
This season so far, Tate has caught 29 passes for 267 yards and a TD in 5 games, which is a "slow start' by his standards. But with the Saints looming next , Tate no doubt will be looking for another big performance against New Orleans.
One thing that will definitely be different this Sunday: Tate hasn't faced anyone at cornerback for the Saints that may be as good as Lattimore has been so far.
As New Orleans Advocate beat writer Nick Underhill noted in his article on Lattimore's progress as a rookie so far: after enduring some struggles in the season opener against the Minnesota Vikings, where he made some mistakes in zone coverage, the 11th-overall pick in the draft has started to show what he can do.
He shadowed and "shut down" Patriots WR Brandin Cooks in Week #2. After missing the next game at Carolina against the Panthers due to a concussion, he came back and surrendered only 29 yards against the Miami Dolphins in the game over in London, England.
As Underhill notes: Lattimore thus far has shown that he has the potential to be a very special player, both in those games and for the Saints going forward.
According to Pro Football Focus — and via our good friend, Canal Street Chronicles managing editor and featured columnist John Hendrix — the talented 21-year old rookie Lattimore is:
- PFF's 9th highest graded corner in terms of Coverage Grade
- While he is the primary defender in coverage, he has been targeted ten times, allowing 8 receptions for 76 yards and recording one pass defense
- He is 4th in the league in coverage snaps per target, a metric that determines how often a corner is targeted while he is the primary defender
- His 10.3 coverage snaps per target trails only Mo Claiborne (Jets), Stephon Gilmore (Patriots) and Patrick Peterson (Cardinals) in terms of the least targeted corners in the league
That's some pretty impressive numbers for a player who is only 4 (and technically 3) games played into his NFL career, and it's definitely the reason why Tate could find circumstances this time around against the Saints secondary, a bit different than he's been accustomed to.
Especially since the young Cleveland, Ohio native Lattimore has shown such phenomenal talent; and an innate capability to hang with the "best of the best" WR's at such an early point in his brief NFL career thus far.
Marshon Lattimore is fantastic. Forced fumble and lockdown player in coverage. He's already a budding star.
— Ian Wharton (@NFLFilmStudy) October 1, 2017
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) October 1, 2017
“Very talented. Has the ability to be a top-flight corner in this league", said Saints DB / Secondary coach Aaron Glenn; in an interview with Underhill for his article linked above, last week.
Of that, there isn't any doubt.
There's an old song from 1964 that was a huge hit in popular music at that time known as "Silence is Golden", by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.
If Marshon Lattimore can "silence Golden" this Sunday inside the Superdome, then it very well could be a great day this weekend down in NOLA for the Saints and their fans.........