METAIRIE, La. — The 82nd ranked player in the NFL Top 100 Players of 2018 list wants to build on a successful 2017 regular season.
“I’m trying to become a legend, year in and year out,” Lattimore said after organized team activities Thursday. “I’m trying to build on everything I did last year. I’m trying to be 10 times better than what I was last year, then next year I want to be 10 times better than I was this year.”
Lattimore’s desire for greatness comes on the heels of a rookie campaign where he led the Saints in interceptions (5) and passes defensed (18), and recorded the seventh-most defensive snaps (754) en route to winning the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year and a Pro Bowl selection.
Given his contributions on a vastly improved Saints defense last year, it would be difficult to find holes in Lattimore’s game. But the 11th overall pick of the 2017 NFL Draft quickly points out his detractors.
“There’s still doubters out there, just little Twitter people,” Lattimore said with a grin.
Lattimore missed three games in 2017 while dealing with a concussion and an ankle injury, but the offseason months have allowed him to rest and immerse himself in studying film to improve mentally.
The cornerback also believes he’s more prepared for this round of OTAs compared to 2017 — and a more comfortable Lattimore willingly shares lessons he previously learned from teammates.
“Now, I’m the one making some calls and before I was learning, so now I know what to do,” he said. “I’m teaching other people what to do, like, ‘You got this, jump that,’ certain stuff like that, just the little details. I know more now and it’s making me better, and it’s only OTAs.”
It also helps when Lattimore faces stiff competition in practice, such as going against wide receiver Michael Thomas, who comes off a second-consecutive 1,000-yard receiving campaign.
The two Pro Bowlers and former Ohio State Buckeyes had their share of hotly contested battles throughout Thursday’s OTAs, with Thomas mostly getting the better of his teammate.
And the duels only make each player better.
“Any right formation, there’s a lot of times where Mike’s going against Marshon,” coach Sean Payton said. “Those are both competitive guys. They’re young players, they’re going with the ones, and so it’s pretty normal to see six or seven plays each day where those two are working against each other. I think that competition helps them both. Obviously, it elevates their play.”
Lattimore offered a humorous take on why Thomas had a good day before turning serious.
“Today was his first day — he showed out for the cameras,” Lattimore said with a chuckle. “Mike is a great player. I don’t take nothing away from him. That’s my dog. Any little competition, battles we have, man, it’s always great. I don’t take it personally. He’s going to get me sometimes; I’m going to get him sometimes.”
Meanwhile, the Saints are fortunate to have a key member of the defense continuing to strive for excellence after coming off an 11-5 season and an NFC South title.
With Lattimore in the lineup last season, the Saints‘ pass defense showed vast improvement to be ranked a respectable 15th in the league after finishing at or near the bottom the NFL the past three seasons.
And should the young cornerback come through with his goal to be 10 times better from 2017, the pass defense should further improve in 2018 and Lattimore could find himself ranked much higher in the NFL Top 100 Players of 2019.
“I get the awards and all that, but I still have to go out there and compete and keep being a better player or better than what I was before,” he said.
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