I don’t think anybody would argue that Lattimore has been anything but the best rookie corner in the league when he has been on the field.
So, with no other rookie pass-rusher besides Garrett playing well enough to receive votes, this battle comes down to two players: White and Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore. With all due respect to guys like Jamal Adams and Marcus Williams, who have spent the season playing safety at a high level, it would be shocking if one of these two corners didn’t win the award.
No team has asked more of any rookie corner than the Saints of Lattimore, and he has consistently come through. Much of the Saints’ improvement can be traced to Lattimore’s presence; consider that through Week 16, they had allowed a passer rating of just 74.3 with Lattimore in the lineup, which rose to 97.2 when Lattimore was on the bench or injured. (Data for Week 17 isn’t yet available.)
White’s candidacy, then, is based on availability. Lattimore missed three games and played only six snaps in a fourth, costing him what amounts to one-quarter of the season. He played 711 defensive snaps. White didn’t miss a game and played 98.6 percent of Buffalo’s defensive snaps. The 27th overall pick, White made it all the way to 1,056 snaps, more than any other rookie defender. And while he might best be known for incurring Gronkowski’s wrath on a cheap shot that earned Gronk a one-game suspension, White has been an above-average cornerback all season.
Obviously Thomas is coming back from injury and starting him off by playing back-to-back games probably isn’t smart, but you’d think the Cavs would hold off and allow him to return against Boston.
But Thomas didn’t really want to do that. If he’s going to play the Celtics, he said, he wants to do it at full strength and not on a minutes limit.
Isaiah Thomas: There was no way I was going to come back against Boston. And play 17 minutes. It’s too big of an opportunity to just play against my former teammates, my former coaches, the city that gave me my biggest opportunity.