New Orleans Run Defense was in the NFL's Top 5 for QB Pressures, Sacks, before DE Marcus Davenport and DT Sheldon Rankins' injuries.
In the first 12 weeks of 2019, the New Orleans Saints defense became one of the best in the NFL. Led by Captains LB Demario Davis and DE Cameron Jordan, the Saints saw All-Pro talent at nearly every level of Dennis Allen’s defense. However, it was not just the veterans who catapulted the unit towards the top of the league. The Young Guns - DE Marcus Davenport, DT Sheldon Rankins, DT Shy Tuttle, and DT David Onyemata - spearheaded a successful Saints defensive line.
Before New Orleans’ 2020 NFC Wild Card game loss to the Minnesota Vikings, the team surrendered 135+ rushing yards only three times. The Saints' defense was not pressuring and sacking the QB along with their run-stopping troubles. Without Davenport and Rankins's explosive skill-sets, the Saints defensive line recorded half as many sacks than the five games before their injuries.
Rankins and Davenport are both former first-round selections for New Orleans. They possess the unique ability to create defensive opportunities for others and themselves. Over the last two seasons, Rankins collected 90 total pressures and 10 sacks. He fills the holes along the defensive line. His seasoned pass-rushing techniques help to collapse the pocket for EDGE players like Cameron Jordan and Marcus Davenport to get into the backfield, create havoc, and make plays.
"He feels really good mentally. He's in a really good place. One of the things for when you're older in the system, he's heard all the same terminology now and we've worked on a lot of the same things. It's going to be easier for him to come back and pick it up a little bit faster. So again, really excited for him to get back and work with him as well."
Like Rankins, Marcus Davenport displayed his value as a disruptor in 2019. The UTSA product averaged just one less pressure per game than All-Pro DE Cameron Jordan. Although Davenport's number of sacks was not high as Jordan's (9.5 fewer sacks), Davenport continued to grow as a run stopper. He posted a Pro Football Focus run defense grade of 82.4, which was the 7th best for all EDGE rushers in the NFL. The second-year man ranked higher than NFL stars OLB TJ Watt, DE Danielle Hunter, DE Nick Bosa, and OLB Za’Darius Smith.
"I think that he made a big step last season. There's some games where he was playing lights out...So I'm excited to start working with Marcus, but there is some growth and there's some things that we've just got to do a little bit better and we'll work on that."
This Saints News Network article was co-written by Brendan Boylan and Andrew Gullotta (Intern).
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