Why the Saints pass rush will thrive in 2022

The Saints pass rush will dominate in 2022

By: Jake Rajala

It was clearly “open season” for the New Orleans Saints pass rush against the mythical Tom Brady in their last battle, as the Saints had four sacks and seven QB hits against TB12. The Saints captain Cameron Jordan, who always carries a chip on his shoulder, ousted two sacks (and a pivotal forced fumble) against Brady – which led him to garner NFC defensive player of the week.

I believe that Jordan, who is also coming off his fifth straight Pro Bowl, will have better help hunting opposing signal-callers in 2022 than last season. The Saints pass rusher Marcus Davenport, aka the profile that Dennis Allen once called the Saints best defensive player, has gifted power and he even earned a whopping 88.8 grade by PFF last season (and that stands above Jordan’s PFF grade: 84.3). The key issue with the former UTSA defender is that he’s missed 11 games in the past two seasons combined.

There are two reasons that should make Saints fans more optimistic about the player that Mickey Loomis dealt two first-round picks to acquire. For 1. Davenport has climbed the ladder in overall talent in each of his past four seasons. I can’t guarantee that Davenport won’t miss two or five games, but I foresee him continuing to improve his pass rush abilities in his fifth season. The second reason that I like Davenport’s chances of having a monster 2022 season is that he is entering a contract year. He will really leave everything out on the field (which may include playing through minor injuries) in 2022, so he can cash in during free agency in the 2023 off-season.

The Saints quietly have a third former first-round pick DE in Payton Turner. The NFL world didn’t get a proper taste from the 6’6, 270 lb DE – due to him only playing in five games (and recording one sack) in 2021. Nonetheless, I really believe a healthy Turner will take a big jump from last season and be one of the biggest x-factors on the team. Nick Underhill of New Orleans. Football expressed on Twitter that Turner shined in yesterday’s practice & Katherine Terrell (and ESPN Saints reporter) stated on the bird app that Turner had several good reps yesterday. She also stated that Turner is playing in the 280s. Turner (who can beat out Davenport for the next role for Thor) has also been in tamed fights with 2022 first-round pick Trevor Penning. He has more experience, size, and fire this off-season, to say the least.

The Saints aren’t only time traveling to bring back their two, behemoth edge rushers, but they will also witness the underrated & healthy Tanoh Kpassagnon wreak havoc in 2022. The former Kansas City Chiefs edge rusher was a part of the Saints walking dead squad last season – as he missed nine games. Regardless of his injury-riddled 2021 campaign, he registered four sacks and eight QB hits in eight contests – which matched his 16-game best sack total from the 2019 season. It would be an understatement to say that he’s one of the best fourth-string defensive ends in the NFL.

New Orleans Saints defensive end outlook right now

Saints defensive end outlook in 2022

By: Jake Rajala

The New Orleans Saints have a loaded defensive line led by the annual Pro Bowler Cam Jordan. The former 2011 first-round pick for the Saints is coming off a 12.5 sack season – as he was also the NFC Defensive Player of The Week in Week 15 and Week 17 a season ago. Jordan, who will certainly miss Matt Ryan in an Atlanta Falcons uniform, should have plenty of gas in the tank for a prominent 2022 season. Nonetheless, it’s pivotal that his younger teammates on the edge can take positive strides soon – as the 32-year-old DE can’t wreak havoc forever.

It’s pivotal that Marcus Davenport, who was called the team’s best defender by Dennis Allen early in the 2021 season, can stay healthy and oust a Pro Bowl-caliber season. Ian Wharton of Bleacher Report pegged Davenport as one of his five breakout players in 2022. Although, it may be a risk for DA to prioritize Davenport – who is a 2023 FA – as he has a long track record of missing ball games (17 missed games in the past four seasons).

With Jordan and Davenport’s long-term outlook a bit of a question mark, it’s very important that the Saints 2021 first-round pick Payton Turner steps up to the plate. Turner was a disappointment last season (1 sack, 3 QB hits), in 5 games to say the least. He has unique power, but he needs to learn from Cam how to improve his pass-rush moves and not learn from Davenport how to stay healthy in year two.

If the Saints can have their best defensive ends stay away from the injury report, they could honestly have a similar three-headed pass-rushing trio as their 2020 unit (Cam, Marcus, and Trey Hendrickson). Outside of the Saints top-three behemoths on the edge, they also have Tanoh Kpassagnon (who quietly had 4 sacks in 8 games in 2021), Carl Granderson (8 sacks in the past two seasons combined), and Taco Charlton (2017 first-round pick). It could be said that the Saints arguably have the most well-rounded DE unit in the league.

Why the Saints should trade Cameron Jordan

A Cameron Jordan trade might be genius and very unpopular

By: Jake Rajala

The New Orleans Saints long-time pass rusher Cameron Jordan has been sacking Matt Ryan since the Declaration of Independence was signed. Jordan ousted his 100th career sack in December and he’s clearly going into the Saints ring of honor when he retires. Here is a closer look at how dominant he has been in his career:

  • 107.5 career sacks
  • seven-time Pro Bowl selection
  • All-Pro in 2017
  • 10 seasons of 7.5+ sacks
  • missed only one game in his career (due to COVID)

It’s clear that Jordan has been a pillar of consistency and dominance throughout his Saints tenure. Nonetheless, I don’t believe the grass is greener on the other side of the fence for Jordan. He’s shown signs of slowing down. He might have captured everybody’s emotion and attention for his late-season heroics in 2021, but he was often MIA in the first half of the 2021 season. In 2020, he had 7.5 sacks and he was even bullied by tight ends on multiple occasions.

Jordan is playing at a position (DE) on the Saints that is filled with talent. The Saints were even featuring Trey Hendrickson in 2020, but they let him leave and watch him almost win DPOY in his first season in Cincy. Hendrickson knocked out 15.5 sacks and he was more potent in the playoffs.

On the DE outlook, the Saints have Jordan, Marcus Davenport, Payton Turner, Tanoh Kpassagnon, and Carl Granderson. One thing is clear: the Saints are loaded at the DE position. Marcus Davenport was one of the most efficient edge rushers per PFF in 2021 and Dennis Allen has called him the best player on his defense. When Davenport comes off the edge, it seems like the OT blocking him will automatically be pushed back into the QB.

Jordan is 33 years old this offseason, while Davenport (25 years old) and Turner (23 years old) have a plethora of potential. I believe the combination of potential on DE and the age of Jordan should make the beloved Cam expendable. Tanoh is quietly a modest pass rusher, as well (four sacks in 2021).

We’ve seen Payton ship out Jimmy Graham for OL talent and draft picks. I do believe that Allen is less likely than Payton to trade away profiles like Thomas, Ramczyk, Kamara, and Jordan. Although, it might be a wise move to trade away Jordan (and draft picks), especially if they can reel in a QB in a Cam trade.

Outside of Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson (assuming they stay on their team), there are QBs like Jimmy G, Garnder Minshew, Kirk Cousins, that could be acquired in a Jordan trade. I also strongly believe Jordan is the best trade chip out of Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas, Ryan Ramczyk, Marshon Lattimore, and Demario Davis. Jordan will soon have grey hair and he’s playing at the Saints packed edge rusher position.

The Saints can make sure they retain Davenport with Jordan’s salary out of the pass rusher bank. Turner and Davenport can the long-term pass-rushing tandem. Jordan (and Mark Ingram) might be the most popular players on the team, but I don’t see him being a true Pro Bowl-caliber beyond two more seasons with the Saints.

They could really use QB help and Jordan would be a smart piece to move. In 2024, Jordan could be retired, Davenport could cash in elsewhere, Hendrickson has already left, and their QB could be Mitchell Trubisky. I believe the prior scenario is really scary, but it’s very possible of happening. If the Saints don’t bring in a QB that’s capable of capitalizing off their loaded roster and bringing them to the Super Bowl soon, they should look at shipping out talented, veterans (cough, cough, Cameron Jordan).

Explaining why Payton Turner was the right pick

Saints Payton Turner was the perfect pick

The New Orleans Saints selected Payton Turner with the 28th overall pick in the 2021 draft. Most of Who Dat Nation found this pick to be puzzling, as they were rumored to be seeking a starting cornerback opposite Marshon Lattimore. I don’t find this pick surprising, nor do I believe it’s concerning. 

The Saints came into the offseason with an attitude of maintaining a championship-level roster. They may have lost a few players in free agency, but they opted to heavily invest in the QB position after Brees retired while retaining a prime player in the secondary (Marcus Williams) — despite being dead last in the NFL in cap space. Headed into the draft, the Saints were rumored to be looking for a trade-up in the draft, despite holding the 28th pick. The Saints opted to select a highly talented edge player that they could “move around/play with” with vs reaching for a CB/WR. I believe that Turner was the right choice for the Saints and he will prove to be a long-lasting pass rusher for the Saints franchise. 

Here are the main reasons why the Saints struck gold with Turner:

The Saints bread and butter was a 3-headed monster from the DE position

The Saints had arguably the best trio of defensive ends in the NFL last season: Cam Jordan, Marcus Davenport, and Trey Hendrickson. In particular, Hendrickson was the ignition to the machine – leading the team in sacks (12.5). Not only was Hendrickson dominant, but he allowed Jordan and Davenport to get rest — this ultimately helped the pass rush as a unit. 

Now that the production of Hendrickson is gone, which was A LOT, they need to TRY and replace some of it. The Saints can’t rely on Davenport to be healthy, let alone take a massive step in production. So, they need another quality face in the QB chasing unit. Insert Payton Turner.

One of the things that’s fantastic about Turner is his versatility. The 6’6 260 DE has experience playing defensive tackle and that will allow Dennis Allen to get creative with Turner inside, while Davenport and Jordan are attacking off the edges. 

Cameron Jordan is 31 and Marcus Davenport has underperformed: Long term DEs? 

As stated above, the Saints boasted three prolific pass rushers in 2020. The alpha isn’t in a Saints uniform, but the other two remain on the roster. There are long term question marks with the talented starting DEs on the roster. Starting with Jordan, the former All-Pro posted his lowest sack total in 2020 (7.5) since 2016. His TFL count (11) was also his lowest tally since 2014. Jordan is a relentless player, but cracks are showing as father time catches up. 

Marcus Davenport holds the biggest question mark at the DE position and the team. The 6’6 270 edge player that clocks a 4.5 40 time hasn’t lived up to his draft stature, to say the least. Davenport has clocked 12 sacks in three seasons to show for his name. He’s also had trouble staying on the field — Davenport has missed a whopping 11 games in three seasons for the Saints. 

Turner provides lots of long-term potential to this unit that could easily be missing two more big-name DEs in the next two-three seasons.  If Davenport does show his talent on a consistent basis and Turner unveils to be a great asset, then the Saints found themselves a monster pass-rushing duo for many years to come.

Breaking down the Saints first round draft pick

By: Courtney Burrows

Day one of the 2021 NFL Draft is in the books.  How did your favorite team do?  The Bears have the steal of the draft with Ohio State’s QB Justin Fields at Pick 11.  The Raiders left most scratching their heads with Alabama’s OT Alex Leatherwood at Pick 17 when there were bigger needs still on the board. 

My beloved New Orleans Saints had Pick 28 and had been rumored to have been in talks all day with other teams for potential trades to move up.  My gut tells me they were trying to move up for one of the top QBs or WRs, but when that didn’t happen the expectation was to take a CB, DE, or WR.  My blood pressure was rising, the tension in the air was thick and looming. 

As I saw the Titans take CB Caleb Farley at Pick 22, I thought there was a chance for us to grab another highly ranked CB and even potentially take Ole Miss’s star WR Elijah Moore.  Remember our famous QB Archie Manning, who graduated from Ole Miss, and son Eli Manning followed him there years later?  Of course, you do, so the Saints and the Rebels have a long history together, which made me even giddier to think about Thomas and Moore running slants and catching touchdown passes. 

At this point, I’m on my feet with nervous anticipation.  This pick is in and with the 28 pick the Saints choose Payton Turner, DE out of Houston.  My jaw drops, and I am confused.

Let’s go back to 2018, when the Saints traded up to Pick 14 and selected Marcus Davenport out of Texas-San Antonio.  He definitely wasn’t immediate starter material as he was viewed as a developmental player, our defensive future.  Davenport has not lived up to his expectations.  He recorded three sacks his rookie season, a few more in 2019, then seemed to regress.  He has not panned out to be the elite pass rusher the organization thought he would become. 

Flash forward to 2021, Turner was not expected to go until the late 2nd or 3rd round.  He is 6’6” and 268lbs and was a three-year starter at Houston with a 4.25 short shuttle on pro day.  Needless to say, he is fast and explosive off the line with long arms, but was he the elite 1st round pick the Saints needed? 

Still on the board were DEs Joe Tyron Washington, Gregory Rousseau, Miami, CBs Eric Stokes, Georgia, Asante Samuel Jr, FSU, and Elijah Moore, WR Ole Miss.  I do believe that any of the players would have been an immediate need filled and potential future face for the Saints. 

The Saints really needed a top-tier CB to play opposite Lattimore. The team also desperately needs a strong receiver to help elevate whoever is under center and take pressure off Thomas as he looks to bounce back from 2020. Yet, here we are. As any good faithful fan and fantasy football guru knows, you must dig deeper, watch a few tapes, and realize that an NFL organization might know more than we do.  So, that’s what I did.  Turner is a beast and superbly athletic.    

He needs fine-tuning, but he showed great progress in the last three years at Houston.  He posted 68 solo tackles and 9.5 sacks in his collegiate career.  The Saints must compete even harder now in the NFC South with the loss of Brees.  The Superbowl defending champions Buccaneers have an incredible defense and brought back all their key players and will continue to add to that in the draft. 

If the Saints have added depth to the defensive front with Turner to keep atop their division, then I hope to not be bitter.  Turner might just be the surprise draft pick. The change in NOLA, the player that bolts off the edge, rushes the offensive line and gets to the QB, specifically Brady, and if that happens, then I am a happy fan. 

The more and more I dive into Turner’s playing ability and potential, the more I like the pick.  It might take some time for me to shake the feeling of what-ifs, but as a devout WHO DAT nation member, I have to respect the pick and look to round two where we must get a WR to complement Thomas.  I also have to trust the process and trust the fact that the organization remembers the Davenport pick and we don’t forget, I hope they didn’t either.  Welcome, Payton Turner to New Orleans!

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