Marshon Lattimore

Handling Marshon Lattimore will be Mitch Trubisky, Bears' toughest test vs. Saints

Handling Marshon Lattimore will be Mitch Trubisky, Bears' toughest test vs. Saints

New Orleans Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore has shut down some of the NFL’s best and most productive receivers over the last three weeks. In total, he’s allowed nine receptions on 20 targets for 108 yards while guarding these five players (numbers per PFF):

Amari Cooper (Cowboys): four catches on seven targets, 39 yards, 2 pass break-ups
Mike Evans (Buccaneers): no catches on one target, one pass break-up
Chris Godwin (Buccaneers): one catch on one target, 14 yards
Dede Westbrook (Jaguars): one catch on three targets, 23 yards, one pass break-up
D.J. Chark (Jaguars): two catches on six targets, 21 yards, one interception

Squarely in Lattimore’s crosshairs when the Saints come to Soldier Field on Sunday, then, will be Allen Robinson. 

“The key is trusting your guys,” coach Matt Nagy said. “That’s important to have. There’s a lot of really good corners in this league and he falls in that category. He’s one of those guys that we’ll match with your top receiver, so you understand that.”

Robinson has 31 catches on 43 targets for 377 yards through five games, easily leading the Bears in those categories and likely leading him to draw the difficult assignment of matching up against Lattimore. He’s at the least been a safety net for Mitch Trubisky, and at the best been one of the NFL's top receivers in 2019. 

So the expectation here is Trubisky still will target Robinson on Sunday, even if Lattimore is draped on him in coverage. Robinson has the talent to still make plays on those throws, as he's shown in the past. 

But a more worrying aspect of Lattimore’s game goes beyond his ability to cover opposing receivers. It’s how he does it, specifically in disguising his coverages. 

Usually, cornerbacks who travel with a team’s top receiver do so while playing man. But the Saints will have him stay with a No. 1 wideout in zone, too, and Lattimore himself does an excellent job in baiting opposing quarterbacks into thinking he’s playing man when he plays zone, and vice versa. 

“If you have a guy follow, you don’t want him just to follow in man situations because as a defense you kind of tip your hand with man versus zone,” Robinson said. “So I think by them being able to move him around a little bit from a strategic standpoint helps them out a little bit, being able to disguise if it’s either man or zone.”

That ability to disguise his coverages is paired with another important skill, one which should worry any quarterback looking his way. 

“He jumps plays real well,” Bears wide receiver Taylor Gabriel said. “He reads real well.” 

While the Saints often use their safeties in two-high looks, with them dropping deep, Lattimore’s skillset allows defensive coordinator Greg Allen to do some different things with those guys at the back. 

“(His) ability to cover outside and sometimes without safety help, it allows you an extra defender or allows you to populate the run a little differently,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. 

If the Saints trust Lattimore to cover Robinson without help over the top, they could drop a safety into the box to aid their run-stopping efforts (it would in all likelihood, though, be a tell the Saints are in man coverage). And that’s the last thing a Bears offense struggling to run the ball needs. 

So Lattimore's impact stretches to the entire Saints' defense. His coverage skills not only can trick opposing quarterbacks into seeing something that's not there, it allows the Saints to feel more comfortable selling out to stop the run. 

But Trubisky can’t just ignore Robinson because Lattimore is shadowing him. At some point, Trubisky and Robinson will need to land a few punches on Sunday. 

“For me, I like it,” Robinson said. “You’re matched up with somebody the whole game, it’s like boxing."

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Bears NFL Draft Preview: More secondary upgrades needed than just FA additions

Bears NFL Draft Preview: More secondary upgrades needed than just FA additions Bears Insider John "Moon" Mullin goes position-by-position as the Bears approach the 2017 Draft, taking a look at what the Bears have, what they might need, and what draft day and after could have in store. Last in a series.

Bears pre-draft situation

A focus of the offseason was unmistakable: Upgrade a secondary that was among the NFL's historically worst at generating takeaways. Less than one month into free agency the Bears had turned over three-fourths of the starting secondary, with no sign that the makeover of a defense that produced a record-low 11 takeaways was done.

The Bears cut veteran cornerback Tracy Porter after signing Prince Amukamara and Marcus Cooper as the presumed starting cornerbacks. The team also re-signed cornerback Johnathan Banks, a late-season pickup last year, and added B.W. Webb to that group, although the Bears become Webb's fifth team in five years, so expectations are tempered. Quintin Demps was brought in from the Texans to start at one safety spot. The other safety has been Adrian Amos, who has started 30 games in his two NFL seasons, played more than 1,800 snaps and has yet to intercept a single pass.

Bryce Callahan started five games at cornerback and another five as the nickel corner but, like Amos, is 20 games into his NFL career with zero interceptions and has yet to force or recover a fumble. Cre'Von LeBlanc was a promising waiver pickup from New England and becomes part of the competition at nickel.

The 2016 draft placed a mid-level emphasis on the secondary, with picks of Deon Bush, Deiondre' Hall and DeAndre Houston-Carson all drafted in the mid rounds but not staying healthy or on the field enough to make any appreciable impact. Add Kyle Fuller, the 2014 first-round pick and last No. 1 from a previous regime, to the non-impact ledger, missing all of last season because of an August knee surgery; the organization did not pick up the fifth-year option on his rookie contract, and the Bears are unlikely to keep him around as a backup with a $1.74 million base this year.

Pre-draft depth-chart'ing starters

CB - Prince Amukamara

CB - Marcus Cooper

SS - Quintin Demps

FS - Adrian Amos

NB - Bryce Callahan

Reserves: Johnathan Banks, De’Vante Bausby, Deon Bush, Kyle Fuller, Jacoby Glenn, Deiondre’ Hall, DeAndre Houston-Carson, Harold Jones-Quartey, Cre’Von LeBlanc, Sherrick McManis, Chris Prosinski, Rashad Reynolds, B.W. Webb.

Bears draft priority: High

Callahan, LeBlanc and depth like Banks and Harold Jones-Quartey may develop into serviceable NFL players but the Bears have had too much “serviceable” and not enough “elite” in their cornerbacks and safeties. The 2017 draft is rated as potentially one of the best-ever for cornerbacks, and two safeties – LSU’s Jamal Adams, Ohio State’s Malik Hooker – could lead to a rarity of both being picked in the top 10.

“I love Malik Hooker. I think he’s the best centerfield safety I’ve seen in years on tape,” said NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock, who considers Adams a safer pick but not the ball-finder that Hooker is. But Mayock expressed serious concerns about Hooker’s injury history and durability.

GM Ryan Pace has placed a premium on a ballhawking safety and acknowledged that such a creature does indeed live within this year’s draft. During Pace’s tenure with the New Orleans personnel departments the Saints selected defensive backs with one of their top two picks in eight of the 10 drafts between 2005-14.

Those picks included safety Kenny Vaccaro at No. 15 in 2013, safety Malcolm Jenkins at No. 14 in 2009 and safety Roman Harper in the 2006 second round. Safety Josh Bullocks (second round, 2005) finished his career in the 2010 with the Bears.

Pace has selected four defensive backs among the 15 Bears picks in his two drafts as general manager. But two were fourth-rounders, one a fifth and one a sixth, and none were expected to be day one starters; Amos became a starter when neither Ryan Mundy nor Brock Vereen proved capable. He is unlikely to go that deep into his third draft before picking another.

Keep an eye on ...

Jamal Adams, S, LSU      Not the interception maker that Hooker was in ’16 but his 4.33-sec. time in a post-Combine 40 sent his stock soaring. A hitter and possibly a prototype strong safety rather than a ball hawk, but “I can play everything in the back end, whether that's covering in the slot, whether that's playing man-free, whether that's being in the A and B gap, filling that hole, or locking down tight ends,” Adams declared during the Combine. “I feel like I'm versatile to play everything in the back end, and that's what makes me a special player." ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper has slotted Adams going 7-10 in the first round.

Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State     Bears arranged a private meeting but too much of a major injury cloud hangs over Hooker, arguably the best pass-defender among the safety prospects. “Hooker, he’s got a little Ed Reed in him,” Kiper said. “I think when you look at Hooker, he’s not that super-aggressive tackling safety, but you sacrifice a little bit now because the NFL is a pass-happy league. But he’s an adequate tackler.”

John Johnson, S, Boston College    Four-year player with excellent coverage skills and ability to make plays on the football. Good prospect if he lasts into third round.

Josh Jones, S, N.C. State         Another DB with whom the Bears set up a private workout. Jones had 8 interceptions over three productive college seasons and showed impressive (4.41) 40 speed at 220 pounds. Not rated as highly as Adams or Hooker but projects as a day one starter even coming via second round.

Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State  The consensus top cover corner but who has missed significant time in two seasons because of hamstring injuries, which are a red flag because of recurrence possibilities – which included another strain while running at the Combine. The fact that Lattimore later tweeted that it wasn’t a hamstring, but instead a hip flexor problem, made matters worse on some teams’ draft boards. Lattimore has elite speed and had 4 interceptions last season but the injuries have dropped him down in some first-round projections. NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock projects Lattimore going within the first seven picks of the draft.

Ezra Robinson, CB, Tennessee State      The Bears thought enough of Robinson to meet privately with the alum from a program that has sent Claude Humphrey, Ed Too Tall Jones, Richard Dent and others to the NFL. If teams are satisfied with his mindset, he did intercept 5 last season and may be a mid-round bargain.

Rotoworld: Bears' top draft needs and a seven-round mock draft

Rotoworld: Bears' top draft needs and a seven-round mock draft

Evan Silva (@EvanSilva) is the Senior Football Editor for Rotoworld's NFL Page, and Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) leads Rotoworld's college football and NFL draft coverage. Together, they're breaking down every team's biggest needs and offering potential draft-day solutions.

For a breakdown on every team, check out the team-by-team draft preview schedule.

Check out all of CSN Chicago's NFL Draft Profiles on our official NFL Draft page.

Bears No. 1 Team Need: Quarterback

Silva’s Analysis

Signing career backups Mike Glennon and Mark Sanchez makes this no less of a need. It’s time for the Bears to invest a first- or early second-day pick on a potential franchise quarterback.

Bears No. 2 Team Need: Defensive Back

Silva’s Analysis

Prince Amukamara went to Chicago on a one-year deal. Tracy Porter was recently released. The Bears’ head-scratching, three-year, $16 million investment in Marcus Cooper netted one of the worst corners in the league with Arizona last season. 2014 first-round pick Kyle Fuller is a bust. The Bears coveted Stephon Gilmore in free agency, but he signed with New England instead. The Bears have also been heavily linked to top-safety prospects Jamal Adams and Malik Hooker.

Bears No. 3 Team Need: Defensive Line

Silva’s Analysis

In NT Eddie Goldman and DEs Akiem Hicks and Jonathan Bullard, the Bears have three quality young pieces up front. Hicks is entering a contract year, however, and Goldman has battled persistent ankle injuries. Chicago needs a dynamic playmaker in the trenches. 

Other Considerations: Offensive Tackle, Wide Receiver, Linebacker

2017 NFL Draft: More coverage here

Norris’ Mock Draft

Round 1 (3): CB Marshon Lattimore, Ohio State - Lattimore is widely viewed as the top prospect at his position. his sample size is small, but if everything clicks he can progress into becoming one of the top corners in the league. Athleticism, plus mirroring plus ball skills.

Round 2 (36): T Antonio Garcia, Troy - I like Garcia more than most. I think he has true left tackle feet and a finisher’s mentality. The Bears have the three interior positions locked down and Charles Leno is entering a contract year. Nevertheless, I think I was higher on Leno coming out of Boise State than any other evaluator.  

Round 3 (67): WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, USC - Smith-Schuster’s 2015 season was outstanding. He took advantage of manufactured space. He is a young and developing receiver … if you’re optimistic, that is.

Read the rest of Norris' mock draft on right here.