Lewis says he’ll be back, but he also has confidence in White, Sweeting
The playing status of injured New Orleans Saints cornerback Keenan Lewis will have no bearing on how young defensive backs Corey White, Rod Sweeting and Trevin Wade prepare themselves for Saturday’s divisional round playoff game at Seattle.
To a man, they said they will be ready to handle whatever Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson throws at them at CenturyLink Field in downtown Seattle.
“Every week, I know teams are coming after me,” said White, who starts opposite Lewis at left cornerback. “It’s nothing personal. That’s not saying I’m a bad player. But they all know this is my first year starting in the league and they’re going to come after me. That’s just common sense.”
“It’s ‘next man up,’ ” Sweeting said. “When Keenan went down (against Philadelphia), I was the next man up. What did they do, complete three passes on me? That’s not bad for being a rookie in a playoff game. So I was pretty happy about that.”
All signs point to Lewis being able to play against the Seahawks after exiting the Eagles game late in the third quarter with a head injury. Saints coach Sean Payton said Lewis has been cleared to practice after going through the necessary concussion protocol required by the league.
A healthy Lewis is vital to the Saints’ chances against Seattle. They will need all hands on deck in the secondary — particularly if big-play threat Percy Harvin (hip) comes off the injury list and joins veteran wide receivers Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin.
Sweeting, an undrafted rookie from Georgia Tech, played 15 snaps in base defense and on passing downs against the Eagles in Lewis’ absence. Wade, a former seventh-round draft pick of the Cleveland Browns in 2012, played 11 snaps.
White became a fixture in the lineup in Week 12 after veteran cornerback Jabari Greer suffered a season-ending knee injury a week earlier against the San Francisco 49ers. The cornerback position also took a hit in Week 2 when veteran Patrick Robinson suffered a season-ending injury against Tampa Bay.
Wade joined the roster in mid-November after being released by the Browns in training camp.
“I tell those young guys to keep preparing and be ready to go,” Lewis said. “Those guys are extremely talented. Corey has been out there for a while, and his skill set is very high. If I wasn’t to play in the game (against Seattle), there’s no doubt in my mind they’ll be able to go against any receiver. I feel they can match up just like me against any receiver in the league.
“But I’ll be out there. I’ll be ready to go.”
Though teams continue to test White and sometimes are successful, Rob Ryan’s fourth-ranked defense hasn’t missed a beat against the pass from a statistical standpoint. The Saints ended the regular season No. 2 against the pass, yielding 194.1 yards per game, second only to the Seahawks at 172.0.
The Saints held their own against the Eagles, limiting Foles to 195 yards passing and two touchdowns inside the red zone. White was guilty of a 40-yard pass interference penalty that set up the Eagles’ go-ahead touchdown with 4:54 remaining, a 3-yard pass from Foles to tight end Zach Ertz.
“Playoff football is definitely different than the regular season,” said White, a fifth-round pick from Samford University in 2012. “Every play counts. You can’t take one play off. Every play is big.”
And they get bigger with each step along the playoff road.
“I want teams to come after me, and they will because of who I am and who we have on the other side (Lewis),” White said. “You always want that challenge. That’s how you make plays and how you can last long in this league. I’ve just got to make some of those plays when I get a chance.”
White said he often reflects on a few encouraging words from Saints linebackers coach Joe Vitt and tries to apply them in his game preparation.
“Coach Vitt always says if you can visualize yourself making the play, you can make the play,” White said. “I try to visualize myself making plays. I always dream about making the last play of the game, knowing the ball is going to come my way and I got to make the play for us to move on. I dream that all the time.”