How will the New Orleans Saints defense handle their Week 1 to Week 7 opponents without the services of defensive tackle David Onyemata?
New Orleans Saints defensive tackle David Onyemata will be returning to the team after a six-game suspension for taking a PEDs. Onyemata has been a key defensive player since being selected in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft.
Onyemata will return from the league's six-game suspension for a positive test of PED's in Week 8. The Saints have several weeks without his leadership and tenacious presence in the defensive interior.
New Orleans has only DT Shy Tuttle, Ryan Glasgow, and Malcolm Roach with Saints club experience since the departures of Sheldon Rankins and Malcom Brown during the offseason.
Newcomers Albert Huggins, Jalen Dalton, Josiah Bronson, and Lorenzo Neal Jr. will have an opportunity to showcase their talent and earn a spot during training camp.
The Saints will lose a solid performer in the middle who is equally tough against the run and pass. The six games without him will call for the interior to handle a variety of offensive threats. The powerful arm of Aaron Rodgers to the mobility of Cam Newton, Fitzpatrick's passion, and outstanding leadership of Tom Brady, Onyemata's replacement(s), will have their hands full in the defensive interior.
WEEK 1 - WEEK 7 WITHOUT THE ONYEMATA
- The Week 1 season-opener will feature the Green Bay Packers visiting New Orleans with or without the reigning NFL MVP QB Aaron Rodgers. In Week 2 and 3, the Saints will be on the road in Carolina and New England.
- Week 2's toughest defensive test will be against newly-minted starter QB Sam Darnold and all-purpose running back Christian McCaffrey.
- A Week 3 clash versus either Cam Newton or Mac Jones will lead the charge versus the Saints. New England did not drastically upgrade their offseason, but to contain a healthier Newton outside of the pocket may pose a problem for New Orleans.
- QB Daniel Jones and RB Saquan Barkley will travel from the Big Apple to the Big Easy. Jones has demonstrated flashes of his talent, and Barkley's return from an ACL injury should make this a pretty good battle in the Superdome.
- At Washington, for a Week 5 clash in our Nation's capital against Ron Rivera's team with "Fitz Magic" at quarterback will be a bruising tilt. The Saints defense can withstand an always gaming Fitzpatrick and young receivers, while the offenses must find ways to contain Chase Young and his squad.
- New Orleans will be fresh off of their Week 6 bye and grace the Emerald City in a Monday Night Football affair with Russell Wilson. Onyemata will be missed for this game. Wilson is calm, cool, and poised in the pocket but can wreak havoc on defenses with his mobility.
Finally, when Onyemata returns for Week 8 in an NFC South battle against Mr. Brady and the Bucs in the Dome, the team should be at least 4-2; 3-3 will be a push.
The Saints could source a veteran defensive tackle in free agency to shore up the defensive line in place of Onyemata. Veterans Geno Atkins, Kawann Short, and Margus Hunt could be adequate substitutes to consider. Hunt was with New Orleans in 2020 and has knowledge of the defense. He was released on October 12, 2020, to sign cornerback Ken Crawley to the active roster.
- Geno Atkins (33 - Bengals)
- Kawann Short (32 - Panthers)
- Jurrell Casey (31 - Broncos)
- Beau Allen (29 - Patriots)
- Damon Harrison (32 - Packers)
- Sylvester Williams (32 - Broncos)
- Margus Hunt (34 - Bengals)
- Domata Peko (36 - Cardinals)
Onyemata, 28, has 30 games starts with New Orleans. He signed a three-year, $27M contract extension in 2020 and became a staple on the defensive line after Sheldon Rankins had multiple injuries. The Saints were facing complications with cap space this offseason. Onyemata agreed to restructure his contract and converted his $7M base salary into a sign-on bonus.
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