METAIRIE, La. -- As New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton said earlier this offseason, nickel defense is really the new base, with teams like the Saints lining up in their pass defense about 75 percent of the time.
With that in mind, I created an extra spot for the nickel cornerback position in my updated defensive depth chart. I also did it because it's the easiest way to sort out New Orleans' overwhelmingly overcrowded cornerback position.
So far during the OTA practices that have been open to the media, the Saints have consistently been using veteran Kyle Wilson as the nickel cornerback with the first string and rookie P.J. Williams as the nickel corner with the second string (to mixed results, as I wrote in Thursday's practice highlights).
I expect, based on what Payton has said, that fellow rookie Damian Swann will line up as the third-string nickel corner when he returns from an undisclosed injury.
That's an important designation for those guys, because being able to play inside the slot could be their quickest path to the roster. The Saints' starting outside corners are set in veterans Keenan Lewis and Brandon Browner. It's the starting nickel job that's wide open.
Meanwhile, second-year pro Stanley Jean-Baptiste and newly-signed CFL transplant Delvin Breaux have both looked decent so far while lining up as the outside corners with the second string. And it's noteworthy that they've been working ahead of third-stringers Terrence Frederick and Brian Dixon -- even though Frederick and Dixon have more experience.
Versatility will be key for all of them, though, including the ability to stand out on special teams. There might only be five roster spots available for all of them. Maybe six, tops.
Here's a rough estimate of the Saints' defensive depth chart, based on what we've seen so far in practice -- though many guys have been rotating, especially along the defensive line.
*-injured or absent from practice as of Thursday
LCB –- Keenan Lewis, Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Brian Dixon
RCB –- Brandon Browner, Delvin Breaux, Terrence Frederick
Nickel CB –- Kyle Wilson, P.J. Williams, *-Damian Swann