Key OTA Battle: Saints Look At Centers, CBs

New Orleans Saints v Washington Redskins

When the New Orleans Saints opened their third practice of the first week of organized team activities to media on Thursday, a lot of attention was focused on two important positions that feature lots of question marks.

Much of the talk during the early part of the offseason concerned the Saints' porous defense and the club's desire to beef up a group that ranked last in passing yards allowed a year ago.

Then, there was the uncertainty at center. Veteran Max Unger recently underwent Lisfranc surgery, and he faces the possibility of missing the regular-season opener even though coach Sean Payton has said he thinks Unger may be back by the end of the preseason schedule.

Unger has been nothing but steady and solid since coming to the Saints from the Seattle Seahawks in the Jimmy Graham trade in March 2015.

"Steady and solid" aren't accurate descriptions of the secondary -- particularly cornerback.

The Saints were ravaged by injuries at the cornerback position last season with starters Delvin Breaux and P.J. Williams sustaining devastating injuries in Weeks 1 and 2, respectively.

Breaux came back from a broken fibula and played in only five more games before sustaining a season-ending shoulder injury. Williams received a severe concussion in the second game and was shut down for the rest of the season.

With that in mind, the Saints tried to make a run at New England Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler before using the 11th pick in the draft on Ohio State's Marshon Lattimore.

Lattimore, who was projected as a top-five or -six pick going into the draft, will get a shot at a starting job. If Lattimore makes the starting lineup, that probably would leave Williams to fight for the nickel job with Sterling Moore and two undrafted free agents who earned roster spots last summer -- Ken Crawley and De'Vante Harris.

The battle started this week with Williams seeing time on the outside opposite Breaux, the Saints' best cover corner. When Williams moved inside to the nickel, Crawley took his place, although Lattimore wasn't drafted that high to sit around.

At center, veteran handyman Senio Kelemete, who has played both guard spots, center and tackle during his four-year career with the Saints, could get the first crack at filling in until Unger returns.

Then again, former Washington Redskins offensive lineman Josh LeRibeus, who was out of football in 2016 after playing center for the first time in his career in 2015, apparently will get a shot as well.

LeRibeus, a former guard who started 11 games at center for the Redskins in 2015, took some snaps with the first team Thursday. If nothing else, he could get an opportunity to earn a backup spot on the line because backup guard Tim Lelito left in free agency.

"He's someone that we think, obviously, has some versatility," Saints coach Sean Payton said Thursday of LeRibeus.

Copyright © 2017 TTWN Media Networks Inc. Photo: Getty Images

Sponsored Content

Sponsored Content