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John DeShazier: There's no question about Keenan Lewis' role in Saints defense

Posted Jun 12, 2014

New Orleanian is the team's shutdown corner

On one side of the defensive backfield there are questions, albeit fairly mild ones.

Does Champ Bailey, a likely Hall of Fame inductee the day he becomes eligible for the vote, have sufficient bounce left in his soon-to-be 36-year-old legs after 15 NFL seasons, to be a starter at left cornerback?

Is Patrick Robinson, a former first-round pick who started all 16 games in 2012 and routinely has been working with the No. 1 defense in OTAs and minicamp, ready to step in and own the spot after having satisfactorily recovered from a patella injury and surgery that forced him to miss the final 14 regular-season games last season, and both playoff games?

What about Corey White, who started the final six regular-season games and both playoff games at left corner after Jabari Greer was lost to a season-ending injury?

And where does second-round pick Stanley Jean-Baptiste fit into the mix?

But whereas there are questions to the left, there’s nothing but an answer on the right.

Keenan Lewis, who attended O. Perry Walker High School in New Orleans and came home to join the Saints as a free agent signee last year, was everything the Saints hoped he would be, and maybe a little more. Lewis proved to be a man-to-man corner that has the confidence and ability to accept the challenge of mirroring top NFL receivers.

And the expectation is that he’ll be even better this season, after intercepting four passes, defending nine and recording 40 tackles last season.

“Keenan Lewis, he’s a guy that started working as soon as the season was over,” secondary coach Wesley McGriff said. “There’s no day off for that young man. He’s a self-starter.

“He’s definitely got the talent, but he’s probably one of the most consistent guys that I’ve had an opportunity to be around in my entire career. The learning curve is off for him now, and he’s probably one of the best man-to-man cover guys in the National Football League.”

Said Lewis: “That’s big coming from your coaches, when they have confidence in you to line you up against any receiver they have in the league.”

Lewis, by all accounts, earned the confidence.

Tall (6 feet 1) and fast, Lewis has matched technique with his aggressiveness and the combination made him one of the league’s best. Now, he’s adding refinement and wisdom, aided by the addition of Bailey.

“Just continue to try to work hard and improve on the things that I lacked last year,” he said. “We’ve got a guy like Champ here now to show me some of his vet moves, and I’m going to run with it.

“There are some things I can improve, especially on film study. I wasn’t too big on it in my career at first, really didn’t know how to watch it until I got with my coaches and guys like Champ, coming and showing me something new. So I’ll be ready to go.”

Add that to what he already has, and the Saints are confident in what they have at right cornerback.

“(Last year) he was playing outstanding,” McGriff said. “We wanted him to get a little bit more involved in the scheme, which he has done a tremendous job of. He just needs to continue to be consistent and be Keenan Lewis. He did an outstanding job for us and we just want to see him take it to another level.

“I think he’s great. You’re looking at a young man who has all the tools – he’s got the size, the speed and he’s got the production. One of the hardest things for anybody to do that’s that talented is to be consistent. That’s the one thing that he does, is a tremendous job of working. So you see that consistency.”