It had been eight months since the city of New Orleans last stepped foot into the Louisiana Superdome to watch a live Saints game. The off-season was spent revamping the defensive side of the ball, which was the Saints’ weak point throughout the 2007 season. The bringing in of free agents and some new coaches to the staff gave fans assurance that the defensive team would be better than it has been in previous years.
Unfortunately, it has been painfully clear that the secondary is still the main problem for the team. But one player stands above the rest for his continued lack of play: Cornerback Jason David. All of last season, David was beat down field and looked lost in coverage. But fans were promised that he was just having trouble with the system, having come over from the Indianapolis Colts’ Cover-2 scheme to the Man Coverage the Saints implement.
Time and time again, David looked confused and ill prepared for whomever the opposition would line up against him. But that was last season. Enter 2008. With the drafting of Tracey Porter, bringing in free agents Randall Gay and Aaron Glenn, as well as the improved play of Usama Young during camp, things were looking up. It was even reported that David was having a good early camp.
But in the two preseason games the Saints have played thus far, against Arizona and Houston, the secondary looked worse than before. They were not only giving up short passes, but allowing those short routes to turn into big gains down field.
David looked just as bad as last season, especially in the preseason home opener against Houston in which he was thrown at five times on a single drive (each one a completion) on the way to a go-ahead touchdown early in the game for the Texans. Houston quarterback Matt Schaub was nearly flawless in the game, going 14 of 16 for 187 yards and two touchdowns. Schaub threw to David's side of the field early and often, just as every quarterback had done all of last season.
Saints fans were forgiving last year, buying into the lie of David’s trouble adjusting to the system. Now, a chorus of boos and some profanity are directed to the field each time he proceeds to allow a pass play and still be allowed to stay on the field.
Granted, the argument has been made that the defensive line isn’t getting to the quarterback quick enough for a sack or to apply some pressure. Sure, that does make sense. But if the receivers are badly guarded and allowed to run unopposed, it doesn’t matter how much pressure you put on the quarterback, for a wide open receiver is still a wide open receiver.
The big question is: why is he STILL starting? Mike Mackenzie is still recovering from his late season injury in 2007 and Porter is recovering from a hamstring injury, but what about Young or Gay or Glenn or even safety Josh Bullocks? Why not give another player a chance? Or why don’t the Saints try to pick up a free agent or trade for another cornerback? Frankly, they couldn’t do any worse.
Perhaps the Jason David experiment has run its course in New Orleans. He could be used for nickel or dime coverage, but again that would require him to actually cover the receiver. Unless the defensive brass for the Saints can come up with some schemes they could use David for, they should try their best to trade him. With most of the 2009 draft having been traded away, they could and should be able to get a pick or two for him.
Let's face it, David is a good athlete and a quick runner. It's why the Saints thought they could mold him into something, now it's time for another coach and another team to try and do the same.