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Saints Complementary Players Could Be Key to a Playoff Run

These New Orleans players are rarely mentioned in the mainstream media, but could be a major key to a strong team in 2022.
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One of the biggest strengths of the New Orleans Saints over the last several years has been their depth on both sides of the ball. That depth was put to the ultimate test last season. The Saints started an incredible 58 different players because of injuries during the course of the year.

Included among those season-ending injuries to QB Jameis Winston and perennial Pro Bowl talents WR Michael Thomas, K Wil Lutz, and G Andrus Peat. Elite players like DE Marcus Davenport and tackles Ryan Ramczyk and Terron Armstead were also lost for significant portions of the year.

New Orleans barely missed the playoffs for the first time since 2016 with a 9-8 record. Despite so much talent watching from the sidelines, the Saints still made a postseason push at the end of the year. They won four of their last five games, with previously overlooked backups making key contributions down the stretch.

Expectations are high among fans, players, and local media for the Saints in 2022. Winston, Thomas, Ramczyk, Lutz, Davenport, and Peat are back. Players like Alvin Kamara, Demario Davis, Marshon Lattimore, and Cam Jordan are among the league's best at their positions.

Underrated stars like Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, David Onyemata, Paulson Adebo, and Erik McCoy are entering the prime of their careers. The team also added experienced stars in WR Jarvis Landry and defensive backs Tyrann Mathieu and Marcus Maye to go along with two first-round picks in WR Chris Olave and OT Trevor Penning.

While the Saints possess star power at nearly every position, what makes this team special is their complementary role players. These are players not often talked about in the mainstream media, but are instrumental to a team’s success.

Here are four New Orleans players that aren't well known in national circles, but should make significant contributions to the team in 2022.

TANOH KPASSAGNON, DE

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) is sacked by New Orleans Saints defensive end Tanoh Kpassagnon (90). Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) is sacked by New Orleans Saints defensive end Tanoh Kpassagnon (90). Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Kpassagnon was an underrated free-agent addition by the Saints last offseason. A second-round choice in the 2017 NFL Draft out of Villanova by Kansas City, he had 10 sacks, 23 QB hits, and 13 tackles for loss in four seasons with the Chiefs.

The 28-year-old Kpassagnon had an immediate impact with New Orleans, playing the most productive football of his career. He was lost for the year with an ankle injury after just eight games, but contributed a career-high 4 sacks while adding 11 pressures, 3 tackles for loss, and two batted passes.

Kpassagnon was leading the team in sacks and pressures at mid-season before his injury. Early season injuries to ends Marcus Davenport and Payton Turner thrust Kpassagnon into a more prominent role. He responded by being a disruptive presence opposite of Pro Bowl DE Cam Jordan.

Considered an athletic project coming out of college, Kpassagnon displayed that explosiveness, but was also a versatile and reliable defender. His impressive burst at 6’7” and 289-Lbs. makes him a handful for offensive tackles to handle one-on-one. He also had the strength and leverage to move inside to defensive tackle at times, making the Saints more disruptive along the defensive front.

Davenport and Turner are expected to get the majority of reps opposite Jordan, if they stay healthy. Kpassagnon has not only proven to be reliable depth, but is too talented to keep off the field. All four ends are capable of playing inside on some alignments. Look for the Saints to use Kpassagnon, Jordan, Davenport, and Turner together often this season.

Calvin Throckmorton, G

New Orleans Saints guard Calvin Throckmorton (76) prepares to block against the Philadelphia Eagles. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

New Orleans Saints guard Calvin Throckmorton (76) prepares to block against the Philadelphia Eagles. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

An undrafted rookie from Oregon in 2020, Throckmorton spent all of his first year on the Saints practice squad. Injuries ravaged a usually dominant offensive line last season, but Throckmorton emerged as one of its most consistent performers.

When injuries took C Erik McCoy, LT Terron Armstead, and LG Andrus Peat to the sidelines, Throckmorton stepped up as the starter at left guard. He was just one of three linemen to play in all 17 games, appearing in 86% of the offensive snaps.

Only James Hurst (940) and Cesar Ruiz played more than the 937 snaps that Throckmorton played along the offensive front. The 25-year-old Throckmorton was a mauler for the New Orleans runners, getting good push at the point of attack and opening cutback lanes. He struggled a bit with athletic pass rushers, but was far more consistent than Ruiz at right guard.

At 6’5” and 309-Lbs., Throckmorton has tremendous power. He isn't the athlete of McCoy or Peat, but is light enough on his feet to get outside on screens or outside runs.

Peat and Ruiz are expected to be the starting guards, but Throckmorton and Hurst provide starting quality depth. One of them could even be plugged in as a starter if Ruiz continues to struggle in his third year.

MARQUEZ CALLAWAY, WR

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Marquez Callaway (1) runs after a catch against the Carolina Panthers. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Marquez Callaway (1) runs after a catch against the Carolina Panthers. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

An undrafted player from Tennessee in 2020, Callaway showed good potential in catching 21 passes for 213 yards as a rookie. The injury to Michael Thomas thrust him into a much more prominent role in his second season. Expected to compete for the Number 2 receiving spot, he was now the top target by default in a thin receiving corps.

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In 17 games, Callaway had 46 receptions on a team-high 84 targets, resulting in a team-high 698 yards and six touchdowns. Not a bad total for an undrafted player in his second year, but disappointing production for a normally productive Saints passing attack. It was the lowest team leading total for a New Orleans wideout since 1986.

At 6’2” and 204-Lbs., Callaway is an underrated route runner with the long stride to beat defenders deep. He has a spectacular leaping ability to give him an advantage on contested throws, works the sideline well, and is physical on underneath routes.

Callaway also has a strong chemistry with Jameis Winston, something that was prevalent before Winston was lost for the season.

New Orleans is expecting a return to health of Thomas in 2022. They also spent a first-round pick on WR Chris Olave and signed Pro Bowl WR Jarvis Landry to bolster a passing attack that finished dead last in 2022. With those additions, Callaway has been forgotten about in offseason conversations about the team’s offensive weapons.

The 24-year-old Callaway is expected to compete with explosive WR Deonte Harty and veteran Tre'Quan Smith for snaps this season. Perhaps even a spot on the team. Callaway may have struggled against the opposition's top corners last season, but could flourish as a Number 4 receiver.

PAULSON ADEBO, CB

New Orleans Saints cornerback Paulson Adebo (29) intercepts a pass intended for Washington receiver Curtis Samuel (10). Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

New Orleans Saints cornerback Paulson Adebo (29) intercepts a pass intended for Washington receiver Curtis Samuel (10). Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

After opting out of the 2020 collegiate year with Stanford, Adebo slipped to the third round of the 2021 draft. He’d emerge to be the team’s best rookie and a valuable member of an elite New Orleans defense.

Starting all 17 games last season, Adebo was targeted often as the corner opposite shut-down Pro Bowler Marshon Lattimore. He’d make offenses pay for testing him.

Adebo tied for the team lead with 3 interceptions, broke up eight throws, and allowed just 61.8% completion rate when targeted. He also recorded 66 tackles, which included 55 solo stops (second on the team) and four tackles for loss.

His play was so impressive that he kept veteran starter Bradley Roby, an early season trade acquisition, on the sidelines much of the season.

Adebo, who turns just 23 next month, showed the potential of a Pro Bowler. He was instrumental in helping Lattimore and a talented secondary shut down several prolific passing attacks. At 6’1” and 192-Lbs., Adebo is a physical defender despite his lean frame. He is outstanding in man coverage and is dangerous in off-ball coverage. A converted wideout, Adebo has excellent ball tracking ability.

Adebo is the only projected starter among the four players featured today. Despite that, he's not yet talked about among the league's up-and-coming defenders. He’ll also face a challenge for playing time from Roby and rookie second-round pick Alontae Taylor.

Lattimore and Adebo are one of the NFL's best tandem of corners. They have the ability to lock down the league's top receivers, allowing an elite defense to be much more aggressive in their coverage packages.

The Saints have one of the NFL's best defensive backfields with the additions of safeties Marcus Maye, Tyrann Mathieu, and presence of Chauncey Gardner-Johnson. Their success starts with Adebo providing an excellent complement to Lattimore in coverage. One of a handful of underrated complementary performers that could provide the key to a deep postseason push in 2022.

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