Cornerback Leigh Torrence joining the Washington Redskins leaves New Orleans Saints thin

By Brandon Winkler

Just when you think fans of the New Orleans Saints couldn’t possibly get any more bad news after yesterday, the team took an under the radar blow to their defense.

The Washington Redskins announced they have  signed New Orleans Saints free agent veteran cornerback Leigh Torrence, the 30 year old,  six-year veteran Tuesday, April 10th.

Torrence, who joined the New Orleans Saints mid-way through the 2008 NFL season, his third team since coming to the league as an undrafted free agent in 2005, has been a solid back-up at his position most of his career.

Throughout his career he has made stops and appeared in games with the Atlanta Falcons, Washington Redskins, and New Orleans Saints. This is his second stint with Redskins who he spent 2006-2008 with.

In 2011, Torrence appeared in 13 games with the Saints while recording 17 tackles, one sack, one interception, and three pass deflections.

His numbers may not be flashy but one thing he did bring is solid tackling to a secondary that struggled over the past couple season and added good coverage skills.

When this signing crosses the minds of fans around Who Dat Nation the initial thought may be “who cares?”

This is a big time loss for a team that’s desperately trying to improve their defense, especially their secondary, who was largely at fault for the loss in the NFC Divisional Playoffs against the San Francisco 49ers when they gave up two huge late drives to quarterback Alex Smith and an offense that had struggled throughout the game.  This was the second straight year in the playoffs that the defense failed to step up when needed.

With Torrence departing the Big Easy for Washington D.C. and the Denver Broncos snagging Tracy Porter, the Saints currently only have five cornerbacks on their roster. Only three of them will likely make the roster, those being Jabari Greer, Johnny Patrick, and Patrick Robinson.

Losing Tracy Porter wasn’t a huge blow to the team, despite his 2009 season that earned him the title “Giant Killer,” he struggled in his basic coverage. He was thrown at 73 times in the 2011 season, 52 of those being receptions for a completion percentage of 71.2%, third worst in the league among cornerbacks.

Johnny Patrick is entering his second year in the NFL after being selected by the team in the third round, 88th overall, of the 2011 NFL Draft.

Greer is the second best cornerback in the NFC South behind Atlanta Falcons’ stand-out Brent Grimes.

Last season, Greer was a target for opposing quarterbacks 121 times, of those attempts he allowed a reception 67 times. He added 70 tackles and one interceptions last season, which was his third year with the team after playing five seasons with the Buffalo Bills.

Patrick Robinson is another very young bright spot in the struggling secondary. In his second season in the NFL last year he made a drastic improvement statistically and improved on various aspects of his game which earned him the starting position opposite of Greer, which moved Porter to nickelback.

In 2011, Robinson managed 47 tackles and four interceptions which was significantly better than his 28 tackles the previous year. When quarterbacks threw his way, he held them to a rating of 59.3 which was seventh in the NFL. As expected, New York Jets star corner Darrelle Revis held opposing quarterbacks to a rating of 45.6, which was the best in the league.

He is also a great perimeter run defender with good size and speed which leads to all signs pointing that he’ll continue to improve with the team and become perhaps one of the premiere players in the league.

The 2012 NFL Draft is quickly approaching and with a severely thin cornerback position the Saints have, some decisions to be made.

The New Orleans Saints could elect to move safety Malcolm Jenkins to nickelback if needed due to his experience playing the nickelback position at the college level at Ohio State. He played the position well, which gave him consideration as the second best available defensive back alongside Vontae Davis.

He recorded a slow 40 yard dash which lead experts to believe he was better suited for safety, although he has filled in at cornerback at times due to player injuries.

Jenkins is in his third season of a five-year, $19 million contract and due to his experience, he may be in consideration to go back to his former position if the Saints can’t find a suitable cornerback through free agency

Malcolm Jenkins was selected in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft, 14th overall, by the New Orleans Saints. He was the first cornerback to be taken by the Saints in the first round since Oregon’s Alex Molden went at No. 11 in the 1996 draft.

Should the Saints not find a cornerback in free agency to take over the roles of Torrence and Porter, they could elect to select one through the NFL Draft.

The problem with that is they have lost their second round pick this year due to the “Bountygate” punishment NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell handed out. So if they decide to go this route, they’d be selecting a player very late in the draft and hoping they perform up to par with what’s needed on the field.

They have too many holes in their defense to be focused on selecting a secondary player when they select their first player in the third round.

It was reported by Saints Correspondent Larry Holder of that free agent cornerback Elbert Mack of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be visiting the Saints this week.

Last season, Mack recorded 29 tackles with two interceptions. He has 89 tackles and five interceptions in his four seasons in the league. He is potentially a very cheap replacement for the Saints. He is a decent player at best, but with some coaching he could fit the mold over time.

The draft is the best option for the Saints due to their limited cap room and ability to mold a player at a cheap price who may give good production. However, if they can get a cheap player such as Mack, they can afford to sign a free agent and draft a player in the later rounds.

It’s unclear exactly what may be in the plans for the secondary at this time, but new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo surely will play a part in the defensive selection process and signings for the 2012 NFL Draft and throughout the rest of the offseason.


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