Cornerback focuses on special teams work
METAIRIE — If one gives credence to a hastily crafted self-critique, reserve New Orleans Saints cornerback Corey White predicts he will need a strong finish in training camp to make the team’s opening game 53-man roster.
“Right now, I’d give myself a C-minus,’’ the 23-year-old from Dunwoody, Ga., said Tuesday morning after practice. “I got to correct a few things. I got to get in the playbook a lot more; be more sound.
“There’s a lot more talent out here this year than we had last year, so this is going to be a tough team to make. But Sean Payton is going to keep the best players. Period. Drafted, undrafted, it doesn’t matter. That’s why my No. 1 goal right now is to get a spot on special teams. If I get a spot on special teams, that’s still a starting spot. That’s all I’m looking forward to right now.’’
White appears to be ahead of Chris Carr and Rod Sweeting on the team’s unofficial depth chart, behind starting cornerbacks Keenan Lewis and Jabari Greer and No. 3 Patrick Robinson, who continues to work himself into football shape after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery.
But the numerical order is hardly etched in stone only three weeks into camp. Two roster cuts loom (from 90 to 75 on Aug. 27 and 75 to to 53 on Aug. 31), meaning the next three exhibition games are critical.
The Saints (1-0) host the Oakland Raiders (1-0) at 7 p.m. Friday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
“You always want to put on a good show in these last games,’’ said White, 6-feet 1, 205 pounds. “You don’t want to leave nothing out there. You want to play these games like it’s the Super Bowl. That’s how I feel. That’s the only way I’m going to make this team.
“I’’m definitely on the bubble. But I like to be on the bubble. That makes me feel like I got to prove something. Being a small-school guy, I’ve always got a chip on my shoulder. So, of course, I’m on the bubble in my eyes.’’
White held a similar belief a year ago when he came to training camp as an unheralded fifth-round pick from Samford University. But he earned a roster spot and went on to register 32 tackles, one interception and three pass breakups in 10 games before being placed on injured reserve Dec. 18.
He started four games and also contributed four tackles on special teams, an area of his game that gives him a slight edge on the competition.
“We really like him,’’ Saints special teams coordinator Greg McMahon said. “He’s a good player. He’s physical; he’s smart, he’s got a good work ethic and he’s making a run on defense, too. He definitely has value on special teams. So far, he’s done a nice job.’’
Saints secondary coach Wesley McGriff said White possesses a “high football I.Q. and height/speed ratio’’ that enables him to play outside against speed receivers and inside against more physical slot receivers.
“He has a high focus,’’ McGriff said. “He stays involved. He’s always about football. He stays in compete mode, whether he’s in the meeting room or on the field, he stays in compete mode.
“He’s always positive. When a play goes the other way, he looks for the mistake he’s made and moves on. He has one of the greatest qualities you can have as a defensive back — a short memory. He plays one play and moves on to the next play. He has a lot of intangibles that make him a great football player.’’
The word “great’’ might be a stretch. But White can be the type of player who makes an impact on special teams while he continues to refine his cornerback skills.
“Special teams are a huge part of the game,’’ McGriff said. “That’s where guys can change the game and make rosters. Corey White is the type of guy that you win with on special teams. You want your best football players on special teams; guys like Corey White.
“It would be a huge, huge asset for us for him to be a great player on special teams, and he will because he cares.’’