Why the Saints could have the best edge rushing rotation in the NFL

New Orleans Saints training camp preview

By: Jeremy Trottier

The New Orleans Saints have had a relatively interesting offseason, between clearing cap space by cutting players, to extending Ryan Ramczyk, to their draft prospects.  With that said, one of the positions on the defense that is most solidified right now is defensive end, between Cam Jordan, Marcus Davenport, and Payton Turner as the top rotation.  In this article, I will be going over each of these three players, as we could see a duo of any mix of them, as well as what they contribute to this unit as a whole.

Cam Jordan

The veteran of the group, Cam Jordan, is going into his 11th season of his career, and has not had a season of under 7.5 sacks since his rookie year.  Despite having a relatively quiet year last season on the stat sheet, his productivity as a player cannot be understated, as he caused a lot of QB pressures, hurries, and hits.  He had 16 QB hits, 26 pressures, and 8 QB knockdowns.  He also took some of the pressure off Trey Hendrickson, as he would often take on two offensive linemen at once which freed up the rest of the line to provide pressure.

Cam Jordan will be vital in teaching the other two edge rushers we are looking at in the article today, as he has a huge deal of experience in the league.  He also says he is feeling, “more rejuvenated than ever” ahead of the 2021-2022 season, which is a huge deal as his mentality is another thing he brings to the roster.  He is the “hype man” of the front four for New Orleans and having him believing in himself that he is the best he has ever been is great news. 

Payton Turner

The Saints 2021 first round pick from Houston, Payton Turner, is one of the more interesting prospects from this draft class.  He fits exactly what the Saints are looking for with players, fantastic physical profile who can produce at multiple positions, hence why they drafted him so early.  At 6’6” 268 pounds, with an 83 inch wingspan and 10.5 inch hands, he has a very good frame for the Saints to build off of, and teach him the nuances of NFL level defensive line.  

One of the most impressive things to note is Payton Turner outperformed himself statistically in 2020 in a lot of categories…but Houston only played less than half the games they normally do due to Covid (five games).  He had 10.5 tackles for loss, five sacks, a forced fumble, and 25 total tackles.  This is an absolutely phenomenal statline for so few games played, and shows Turner has the capability to produce due to his athletic traits.

Marcus Davenport

Another Saints first round pick, but in 2018, we wrap the list up with Marcus Davenport.  Another DE with a fantastic frame at 6’6” 265 pounds, and is still only 24 years of age, 25 by the start of the 2021-2022 season.  The main issue Davenport has to date is injuries, it seems like every time he really starts to produce he goes down and we do not see him again for awhile.  Just to list off his injuries since his draft year, here they are:

  • 2018 – Thumb fracture, had surgery prior to season, no games missed
  • 2018 – Toe sprain on right foot, 3 games missed
  • 2019 – Foot fracture (Lisfranc fracture), season ending surgery after week 14
  • 2020 – Elbow bruising, missed three games and practices prior to season
  • 2020 – Pedal toe sprain – missed week 4 

However, when he is not injured he has been an absolute monster in the games he started.  In 2019 when he started 13 games, he had 6 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 16 QB hits, 17 pressures, 6 QB knockdowns, and 9 hurries.  If he starts this season or even splits with Payton Turner, and if he stays healthy, he will most definitely contribute to this front-seven without a doubt.  

The Saints defense is still top 5 in the league

Saints defense will be elite in 2021

By: Jeremy Trottier

With the NFL offseason finally starting to finish up, and training camps opening shortly, many teams are close to finishing their rosters.  With that said, the New Orleans Saints are one team that had a huge amount of losses due to cap, primarily on the defensive side of the ball.  However, there are still quite a few reasons their defense could remain top five in the league, despite these hits to the 53 man roster.

In this article, I will be going over the three main reasons this New Orleans defense should remain top five in the league.  

The Core is Still Intact

The main thing that needs to be realized by fans of the NFL, and the Saints, is that the main pieces of this defense are still here.  Even after losing starting-caliber players during the offseason, the Saints have such an extreme depth at most positions that they already had roles being filled before the draft.  Here is a list of the primary players that the Saints have moved on from this offseason, and their likely replacements:

  • Kwon Alexander (LB) – Pete Werner
  • Janoris Jenkins (CB) – Paulson Adebo
  • Trey Hendrickson (DE) – Marcus Davenport or Payton Turner
  • Sheldon Rankins (IDL) – Malcolm Roach or Shy Tuttle
  • Alex Anzalone (LB) – Zack Baun

Overall right now, the Saints defensive roster is very young at a lot of the positions that needed to be filled.  This will be great for New Orleans, as they have needed a 2017 esc draft class where they got a huge deal of starting players all in one class.  An infusion of youth is always nice as well as they will be less injury prone and have the potential to get better as the season goes on.

Coaching is Primarily the Same

The Saints defense is very, very reliant upon its coaching capabilities, and it has been ever since it got effective in 2016 or so.  With DC Dennis Allen still running the show, he will likely be able to use a lot of these young players to their strengths and play them in the best scenario possible.  An interesting note to watch this offseason was the replacement of DBs coach, who is now Kris Richard.  

The reason this is interesting is Kris worked in Seattle during the legion of boom as a DBs coach and coached another relatively tall, 190 pounds, non-first-round Stanford CB by the name of Richard Sherman.  Paulson Adebo fits all of those categories, despite being slightly shorter than Sherman is.  If anyone is going to draw the potential out of Paulson and get him to turn into a lockdown CB on the field, its Kris.  

One more coach who is a primary in the Saints defense is defensive line coach Ryan Nielsen.  The Saints have had six different defensive linemen have had multi-sack games during his tenure, and was the primary reason the Saints had one of the longest streaks not allowing an 100-yard rusher going into the 2020 season.  With young d-linemen such as Payton Turner, Carl Granderson, Shy Tuttle, and even Marcus Davenport in the building, his experience cannot go under the radar.

The Blend of Veteran Leadership and Rookie Mentality

As I mentioned previously, the Saints have quite a few young players on the defensive side of the ball.  With that in mind, they also have veteran players to balance that youth out and to help them develop their mindsets to fit in the NFL.  To name a player at each level, you have Cam Jordan at d-line (10 seasons in the league), Demario Davis at linebacker (9 seasons in the league), and in the secondary Malcolm Jenkins (12 seasons in the league).

These players who have experience within the league, as well as within the Saints system, should really help develop the young players on the roster quickly.  The faster the rookies and young players develop, the better the defense becomes as the talent moves along.  This is a huge deal, as teams who are all younger players or all older players tend to not have high level play normally.  

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