Few players have been thrown at less or have given up fewer yards in coverage than Saints cornerback Keenan Lewis. Yet he does not stand among the top 10 fan-vote getters at his position for the Pro Bowl, so his coaches and teammates went to bat for him when they met with the media on Friday.
“Some of these (other) guys might have four picks, but you see them give up give up 16 touchdowns (and) get voted into the Pro Bowl,” Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said. “I know who deserves it, and (Lewis) has worked his tail off — what a leader he’s been for us, and what a transaction.”
Rookie safety Kenny Vaccaro added, “He’s a top 5 cornerback in this league — easily, man. Easily.”
Lewis, the Saints’ marquee free-agent addition this offseason, has given up the second-fewest yards in his coverage area (409) and the second-fewest yards after catches (104) among cornerbacks who’ve played 75 percent of their team’s snaps, according to the website Pro Football Focus. He trails only Tampa Bay cornerback Darrelle Revis in those categories, and he’s only surrendered three touchdowns in the Saints’ 14 games this year.
Lewis has three interceptions and five pass break-ups on the 62 times he’s been thrown at this year. In an unrivaled sign of respect from opponents, only Revis and Richard Sherman of Seattle have been thrown at less among the aforementioned cornerbacks, Pro Football Focus’ numbers show. Sherman, who was leading the Pro Bowl fan vote, has given up 58 more yards than Lewis but has three more picks and has given up one less score.
On Friday, Lewis agreed with the assessments from Ryan and Vaccaro, implying he’s having a season Sherman, Revis and any other cornerback in the NFL would be proud of.
“Go off the film,” Lewis said. “It ain’t going to lie to nobody.”
Eight cornerbacks, regardless of conference, will be selected to the Pro Bowl. The fan, coaches’, and players’ vote each count for one-third.
Graham adjusting ‘real well’
New kicker Shayne Graham has adjusted “real well” to the Saints’ holder for field goals — backup quarterback Luke McCown — and to long snapper Justin Drescher, New Orleans special teams coach Greg McMahon said Friday.
McMahon also said the Saints chose to sign Graham as opposed to other kickers they’d worked out earlier this year because “he’s just very consistent — we liked, really, the career that he’s had.”
Graham has made 85.4 percent of the field goals he’s tried in his 14 years in the NFL. He kicked for Houston last year, going 6-for-6 in the postseason. The Saints brought him in to replace kicker Garrett Hartley, who was waived Tuesday after missing eight of his 30 field goal attempts this year.
McMahon said Hartley, who helped the Saints win Super Bowl XLIV, is “absolutely” good enough to get a job at another NFL team.
“Look, I love Garrett Hartley,” McMahon said. “That doesn’t just come and go. He’s a ... great man and a heck of a football player.”
Bush doubtful, Stewart out
After missing practice all week with an ankle injury, Saints safety Rafael Bush is doubtful for Sunday’s game at Carolina (10-4). Bush has sat out the past two games. He plays in the defense’s dime package.
The Saints (10-4) listed TE Josh Hill (hamstring) and OLB/DE Keyunta Dawson (calf) as questionable.
In Carolina, the Panthers ruled out RB Jonathan Stewart (knee). WR Steve Smith, who didn’t work Thursday after he jammed a finger Wednesday, was limited in practice Friday but is probable to go against the Saints.
Also probable are TE Greg Olsen (foot), TE Brandon Williams (hip), T Jordan Gross and G Travelle Wharton.
New Orleans Saints linebacker Curtis Lofton received a $7,875 fine for hitting Rams quarterback Kellen Clemens after the QB slid on a play in the first period of St. Louis’ 27-16 win last Sunday, the NFL said.
Officials whistled Lofton for a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty on the play.