But his performance in Saturday’s 13-0 preseason victory over the Houston Texans has to rank among the most promising developments of the Saints’ summer.
New Orleans is counting on the 11th pick in the draft to start right away, especially in the wake of veteran cornerback Delvin Breaux’s broken fibula. And Lattimore looked poised for prime time Saturday with two impressive pass breakups -- on the first two balls thrown his way this preseason.
The first was a third-and-9 sideline route to receiver Dres Anderson on the Texans’ opening series. The second was a deep floater that was underthrown to receiver Jaelen Strong (since quarterback Tom Savage was under pressure). Lattimore missed out on an interception, partly because Strong helped break up the pass, but it was impressive to see Lattimore in tight containment all the way down the field.
Lattimore was hardly reveling in his success, though. In fact, it was the opposite.
“I’ve gotta make those interceptions I could’ve had. I left some money out on the field,” Lattimore lamented after the game. “I’ve gotta be a great player, not a good player. ... That’s what’s gonna separate me from other people and other corners. So it was a good play, but I had to make it great.”
Lattimore’s performance (and his high demands for himself) are a good sign for the Saints, considering how inexperienced their prized draft pick is:
He just turned 21 in May.
He had only one full year of starting experience at Ohio State because of hamstring injuries that plagued his first two college seasons.
Then he missed out on some valuable practice time when a minor knee injury sidelined him for two weeks early in camp, forcing him to miss the first preseason game. And he missed a joint practice against the Texans last week after reportedly feeling lightheaded.
When Lattimore has been on the field, though, he has held up well and flashed great speed and athleticism. Coaches praised the 6-foot, 192-pounder last week for his performance in joint practices with the Los Angeles Chargers. Then he wasn’t targeted once while playing 17 snaps in his preseason debut against L.A.
Lattimore played 38 snaps against the Texans, seeing four or five passes thrown near his coverage area. Two quick passes were completed underneath him in off coverage, at least one of them in a zone-defense look.
“I got a whole half this game, so [it was] just getting into the rhythm of the NFL game. Even though it’s preseason, I’m still getting a rhythm being out there with the first unit,” said Lattimore, who said he focused on studying as much as possible during the time he missed.
“It’s progressing well. I’ve been in the playbook a lot. Meeting rooms and studying, [working with] the coaches and the players. So I feel like I’m getting a grasp of it. There’s no school, but it’s really like school, studying the playbook, it’s so big. ... I’m just taking it one day at a time. I have to progress every day.
“I feel good. Confidence comes with preparation. As long as I’m prepared, I feel confident physically in what I can do.”