In 2021, the Green Bay Packers traded former second-round cornerback Josh Jackson to the New York Giants for cornerback Isaac Yiadom — currently a New Orleans Saints — during the preseason. Ultimately, Yiadom was able to make it through cutdowns to make the 53-man roster, where he was given an opportunity for playing time when both Jaire Alexander and Kevin King sustained injuries.
That season, Yiadom was able to record 95 defensive snaps for the team, as well as 307 special teams reps, but was eventually replaced in the lineup by Rasul Douglas — a practice squad pickup who would later sign a three-year, $21 million with the Packers.
So when the Saints’ preferred starting cornerback Paulson Adebo was held out of Sunday’s game with a hamstring injury, Green Bay was already familiar with Yiadom’s skillset. Without Adebo, the Saints fielded Marshon Lattimore, a four-time Pro Bowler, Alontae Taylor, a rising second-year player, and Yiadom as their three cornerbacks for most of the game. If you thought you saw the Packers avoiding Lattimore for most of the game on Sunday, you weren’t imagining things. Here’s what LaFleur had to say about peppering New Orleans’ non-Lattimore cornerbacks after the game:
Yeah, we thought we had something there and you got to take advantage when you have a situation. Everybody knows the corner that Lattimore is. When you go opposite him, if you think that’s the best thing you can do, you take advantage.
Did that plan work? That depends on what your criteria are. According to Next Gen Stats, Yiadom finished with the most “tight window targets” in a single game so far this season with seven, while Taylor finished with five (good for second in a game league-wide in 2023.) Officially, the duo had nine passes “defensed” compared to just five receptions allowed on 18 total targets — 12 of which were “tight window” targets.
Isaac Yiadom forced the most tight window targets (7) in a game over the last two seasons. His teammate Alontae Taylor also had 5 tight window targets.— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) September 24, 2023
Yiadom and Taylor allowed a combined 5 receptions on 18 targets, recording 9 total passes defensed.#NOvsGB | #Saints pic.twitter.com/OV66Itbtha
The Packers ended up throwing 13 passes that led to contested catches, more than double the amount that they threw over the first two games of the season combined. Down on the scoreboard for most of the game against a strong cornerback unit, there are not many other options that Green Bay’s passing game had on Sunday, though, if they wanted to rally back to win the game — which they did with an 18-point fourth-quarter effort.
Packers were 3 for 13 on contested catches on Sunday and now 5 for 22 this season. It’s at least part of the reason Jordan Love’s completion percentage is low.— Zach Kruse (@zachkruse2) September 25, 2023
Unfortunately for Yiadom, the play that people are going to remember is the touchdown allowed to receiver Romeo Doubs on a red zone fade, which tied the game before an Anders Carlson PAT put the Packers ahead. The Saints’ cornerbacks held up for 57 minutes, but a Green Bay receiver was finally able to turn one of these Jordan Love contested balls into a big-time score to give the Packers the lead.
So did Green Bay’s plan of spraying New Orleans’ non-Pro Bowl cornerbacks with balls that they had to make plays in the air on work? It didn’t, until the Saints gave up the score to Doubs. Ultimately, the scoreboard — not a cornerback unit’s advanced stats — is how we judge football games. The Packers stuck to their plan: attacking a familiar face. It almost cost them, and it certainly could have gone a lot differently if the Saints’ offense scored more than three points after their first drive of the game, but Doubs’ touchdown washed away any Monday morning quarterbacking about the game plan.