With the playoffs quickly approaching, the New Orleans Saints are chasing the Seattle Seahawks for home field advantage and trying to hold off the Carolina Panthers for the NFC South crown. These circumstances have made every game critical going forward.
At this point, we know what to expect from players like Drew Brees, Jimmy Graham, and all the other notable contributors on offense and defense. However, every season, there are some under the radar players that pop up that can help a team win. Here are two little known players that can have an impact going forward.
The first player is cornerback Corey White. Starting corner Jabari Greer suffered what appeared to be a season ending leg injury when he landed very awkwardly. Greer has been a dependable, solid piece to the Saints’ defense since 2009.
Corey White will be expected to step in for him at that second cornerback spot. White doesn’t lack confidence; after being drafted in the 5th round in 2012 he tweeted, “It’s going to be fun picking off some balls from Drew Brees. It is going to be real fun.” White doesn’t have the numbers to back it up yet, but he can play.
It took a little time to get used to playing on the outside, but after getting beat by Anquan Boldin for a touchdown, he intercepted Colin Kaepernick and almost returned it for a touchdown before fumbling it out of bounds. Before this game, he was primarily playing the nickelback position and has been solid. The eyeball test has shown that he isn’t scared and, unlike most corners, is willing to go in and make a hit.
Once again, there really aren’t many numbers to go off of, but once he got comfortable playing on the outside he produced an interception and a couple of pass defenses. The Saints’ will need his contributions because you better believe that offenses will be taking their shots at him often.
Speaking of offenses, the Saints’ offense isn’t too shabby, and has plenty of weapons. What is crazy is that in addition to Marques Colston, Jimmy Graham, Darren Sproles, and the rest, there might a new name to throw up there—Josh Hill.
The undrafted rookie out of Idaho State has seen an increase in his snap count and targets the past few weeks. Though he is no Graham, he is a good-looking athlete in his own right. Standing 6-foot-5, Hill has pretty good speed running a 4.65 in the 40 yard dash at the combine. Hill is just another athletic, big body type player that seems to be taking over the league and is a great asset to have opposite Graham.
Since Ben Watson, who was brought in to be that opposite tight end, has been a little nicked up lately, and with Graham still nursing a foot injury, Hill has seen an uptick in reps. This has allowed the Saints to bring Graham on a little slower from injury.
Hill’s development will make the Saints’ offense that much more versatile, especially in the red zone. But most of all, this could enhance the running game. They could, theoretically, have three legitimate pass catching tight ends in Graham, Watson, and Hill on the field at once, which could allow them to be in a heavy running set without sacrificing pass catching skill.
Both players won’t jump off the stat sheet, but they will do small things that can help this team get to the next level. If White can be half the cornerback Greer was, the defense will be fine. And if Hill can end up being serviceable threat in the passing game, that is one more thing that defenses will have to concentrate on. Either way, regardless of this season, these are two names that fans should remember because they are going to be with this team for a long time.
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