Bears rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and Saints rookie cornerback Marshon Lattimore have been on a midseason collision course for months now.
Ever since Chicago made a surprising, aggressive and potentially risky trade to acquire Trubisky second overall in last spring’s draft.
Lattimore, the consensus top cornerback in the 2017 draft, was widely seen as a likely top-10 pick. But after Chicago shook up the top of the first round , Lattimore was still available when the Saints – who never thought he’d last until their 11th overall pick – leapt at the opportunity to snag the former Ohio State defensive star.
“Perfect,” said Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan, who believes his success as a pass rusher this season has been augmented by Lattimore’s coverage skills. “Hopefully he picks (Trubisky) off this week.”
Both Trubisky and Lattimore now occupy prominent starting roles on opposite sides of the ball for teams that have played well lately, and who'll meet Sunday in the Superdome.
Chicago (3-4) has won two straight and has just one three-point loss to NFC North Division-leading Minnesota since Trubisky took over for veteran Mike Glennon as starter in Week 5. The Saints (4-2) have ridden a four-game winning streak to the top of the NFC South.
Lattimore quickly has emerged as New Orleans’ top cornerback. He has one interception, which he returned for a touchdown, along with a forced fumble and five passes defended in five games. The Saints generally have him covering opponents’ primary receivers, none of whom have had a good day against him.
“It’s fair to say he was probably the No. 1 corner in 90 percent of the (draft) boards in the league” last spring, Bears coach John Fox said. “He is long. He has length. He has speed. I think he’s transitioned really well into the Saints’ defense and they’re doing a good job of teaching him.”
The Saints, who ranked no better than 31st defensively in each of the previous three seasons, needed a player such as Lattimore.
Lattimore isn’t lacking in confidence, saying his goal is to become a “Darrelle Revis-type” cornerback whose presence dissuades opponents from throwing anywhere near him.
“I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t want to be great,” Lattimore said. “If a quarterback is not looking your way, that’s a great thing.”
Trubisky hasn’t exactly aired it out. He threw only seven times in last week’s victory over Carolina, in which the Bears scored both of their touchdowns on defensive plays. Still, he has minimized mistakes and demonstrated potential while completing half of his 48 passing attempts.
“I don’t care if I throw zero passes if we win,” Trubisky said. “I’m confident in my abilities and what we have with this offense and where we’re headed.
“We’re going to continue to get better. I’m going to make sure of that.”
The game marks Bears defensive tackle Akiem Hicks’ return to New Orleans, where he began his NFL career as a third-rounder in 2012 and remained until being traded to New England in 2015. He joined Chicago a season later and this season has six sacks, seven tackles for loss, eight QB hits and a forced fumble.