We're just about three weeks away from the Saints rookies reporting to training camp on July 19. Veterans will join up the following week on July 26, and practices will get underway by the end of next month. New Orleans is looking to get back into the postseason after a successful five-year run came to an end last season. Despite a season full of adversity, they narrowly missed the playoffs,
This is a hungry team that's certainly made some enhancements and upgrades from last season, but there are still some lingering questions. Part of that hinges on some particular players and their potential going into 2022. The Saints News Network Team got together once again to weigh in with their player that has the most to prove this upcoming season and why.
Brendan Boylan - Tyrann Mathieu
Weirdly enough, I am convinced that the Honey Badger has the most to prove during Training Camp this summer. Mathieu joins New Orleans as one of the biggest offseason moves of the past two decades. Between his excellent play on the field and being a New Orleans native, Mathieu carries high expectations this season to be an immediate impact player and lead one of the league’s best defensive units.
There is pressure to being a hometown hero playing for your hometown team for the first time. That pressure is on Mathieu to prove right from the jump that he is the player all of Who Dat Nation knows he can be.
Bob Rose - Marcus Davenport
An obvious choice here is Jameis Winston, but I think the 25-year-old Davenport has just as much to prove on the defensive side. He's always flashed the potential of a perennial Pro Bowler, but has been held back because of injuries and inconsistency.
Davenport had the most productive year of his career last season, but was still unavailable for six games. With Cam Jordan entering his 12th season and Payton Turner still unproven, Davenport needs to stay on the field. If he can, I believe he has the potential to be the league's defensive MVP.
Kyle T. Mosley - Andrus Peat
Andrus Peat has had a year of starting a family, sustaining another significant injury, and is now without his offensive linemate left tackle Terron Armstead. The Saints' former top draft pick's career has been uneven. He has three years remaining on his five-year, $57M extension. Can Peat stay healthy, protect Winston, and anchor the left side with either James Hurst or first-round pick Trevor Penning for 2022-23? We shall see.
There's plenty of candidates that have a lot on the line going into the new season, and honestly any of the top players facing their contract year could get top billing. However, Michael Thomas is the guy that feels like he has the most to prove in 2022. Being 2019's Offensive Player of the Year seems like such a long time ago, and for a player who was completely ascending, 2020 and 2021 were really difficult seasons all around.
The fluke injury at the end of Week 1's win against the Buccaneers during the COVID-riddled season set the stage for Thomas to get shut down and placed on injured reserve. There was also the whole fight incident with C.J. Gardner-Johnson in between there. Thomas returned in Week 9 and ended up putting together a few decent games, but he really wasn't the same and had to be shut down for good by Week 14.
Fast forward to the offseason in 2021, and there was the debacle with the offseason surgery and apparent miscommunication. Those fences ended up getting mended after quite a heightened period of not knowing what the future held. Thomas was expected to be back at some point during a year where New Orleans absolutely needed him, but in early November we learned that there was a setback and he wouldn't be in the mix for the season.
Even missing as much time as he did, Thomas is still in the Top 5 of receiver receptions since 2016. We've seen Thomas around the facility, and he's doing rehab. He wasn't ready to go during minicamp, but all signs are pointing to training camp of him being out there. The rehab videos have circled, and New Orleans may use a cautious approach with him to ensure there's nothing left to chance.
Regardless of when Thomas comes back, it's a very important milestone. He can be extremely dominant when in the lineup, and the supporting cast actually may take some pressure off him to perform at an elite level. The chemistry is something to develop with Jameis Winston, but it'll work.
For some, getting No. 13 out there could be the best thing to happen for the Saints. He'll have the chip on his shoulder, and will have a lot of critics and doubters to silence.
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