Thursday, October 31, 2013
Lewis adds one missing skill: interceptions
By Mike Triplett
METAIRIE, La. -- Suddenly New Orleans Saints cornerback Keenan Lewis is an interception magnet.
After intercepting just one pass during his first four NFL seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Lewis now has three of them this season -- including two over the past two games.
"I'm on a roll," Lewis said with a laugh, adding that he's aiming for a total of eight this season.
When asked if that's a magic number, Lewis said, "No, that's just a high number."
Up until this year, interceptions were the one nagging omission from Lewis' resume.
He ranked second in the NFL with 23 pass break-ups last season (one behind the Seattle Seahawks' Richard Sherman). At 6-foot-1, 208 pounds, he's the kind of physical, long-armed cornerback that NFL teams covet these days with receivers getting bigger and bigger.
That's why the Saints signed him to a five-year, $26.3 million contract in the offseason to bring Lewis back to his hometown of New Orleans and make him the key piece of their free agent class.
So far, the Saints have been getting a great return on their investment. Lewis has been consistently solid in coverage all season. According to Pro Football Focus, quarterbacks have a passer rating of just 39.9 when throwing his way -- the third lowest number in the league among cornerbacks who have played at least half of their team's snaps. He has allowed just one touchdown pass and hasn't missed a tackle. The longest pass he has given up all season was a 26-yarder against the Buffalo Bills' Marquise Goodwin last week.
"He's been consistent. He's got very good length. He's handled the man-to-man we play, which he gets a lot of," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "There have been games when we put him on a certain receiver and some games where we play right and left."
With the Saints mixing up their defenses under coordinator Rob Ryan, though, Lewis said he's played a little more zone coverage than he played in Pittsburgh, which has increased his opportunities for picks.
The two he had against the Bills and New England Patriots were both deep floaters that he attacked before the receivers located them.
"My hands are superb, now. That's one thing I do have is great hands," Lewis said with a laugh -- something he's obviously had to defend himself against ribbing from friends and teammates over the years.
"It was tough at first, for a couple of years I didn't get [interceptions]. I was kind of upset," Lewis admitted. "But now I'm getting my opportunities to get ‘em, so it's good. … I've had opportunities to help my offense get the ball back. I'm very excited about that."
Lewis may get more opportunities this week. New York Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith ranks third in the NFL with 13 interceptions thrown this year.