Saints still leery of Seahawks secondary

METAIRIE, La. – In theory, the New Orleans Saints should be licking their chops after the Seattle Seahawks lost their No. 2 and No. 3 cornerbacks to suspensions this past week. But that isn’t the case at all.

For one thing, the Seahawks still have their No. 1 guy – All-Pro Richard Sherman, who has emerged in recent years as one of the NFL’s elite cover men. For another thing, the Saints have seen enough from backups Byron Maxwell and Jeremy Lane to know that Seattle has the depth to make its system work with the “next man up.”

“They have played, so we have film," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "I think the thing, and I told our players this, they are going to come in and play the same type of technique. You don’t see something change differently in regards to how they play a certain coverage or how they play a technique. [Overall, the Seahawks] are very, very good at playing bump and run outside. I would say it’s complementary to what they are also very good at, and that is rushing the passer.

“They are able to challenge offenses with … their ability to stay on a receiver in tight, very tight coverage. Sherman, the free safety [Earl] Thomas, the strong safety [Kam] Chancellor -- they have a lot of talented players, not only in the back end. They have a young linebacker corps that runs extremely well and a front that is very physical and very active. Couple that with crowd noise and an environment that is uniquely different, you have a formula that is successful, and you’re seeing it right now.”

The Seahawks are tied for the NFL lead with 16 interceptions this season. And they’re second in the NFL in passing defense, allowing just 180.4 passing yards per game.

“Their secondary is full of a bunch of ball hawks,” Saints quarterback Drew Brees said. “They are guys that are around the ball all the time. Balls are getting tipped up; they have great ball skills, great awareness. That’s what their defense thrives on. …

“Sherman’s a great player, but they’ve got Earl Thomas who was an All-Pro last year. I’ve been in the Pro Bowl with him twice now, and I’m extremely impressed with him. He’s a guy who loves football. You can tell that he studies the game, studies every aspect of it. He wants to be a great player – not just a good player, a great player.”

It will be especially interesting to see how the Seahawks choose to match up against Saints tight end Jimmy Graham – whether they’ll stick with man coverage and whether they’ll use Sherman in that role.

Either way, the Seahawks still have more quality options than most teams that face the Saints.