Saints Pass Rushers/Defensive Ends, Post Draft
The New Orleans Saints boast one of the best and most underrated edge players in the NFL in DE Cam Jordan. For years one of the many downfalls of the Saints defense was failing to add a solid complement at the other edge to for Jordan. In 2018, New Orleans traded up to the 14th pick in the draft to add DE Marcus Davenport. Along with that addition the Saints defense around Jordan has improved overall, and the unit has become one of the more disruptive in the league.
The Saints sacked opposing quarterbacks 100 times over the last two seasons, with many of those coming from the edge. Injuries have hit the defensive end spot hard late in each of those two years though, and the Saints have failed to get good pressure at crucial times of two postseason losses. New Orleans has built some competent depth behind Jordan and Davenport, but those players failed to step up and make big plays in the team’s biggest game. With the start of training camp less than two months away, we have a look at how this position shapes up as the 2020 season approaches.
- Cameron Jordan
- Marcus Davenport
- Trey Hendrickson
- Mario Edwards Jr. (E/T)
- Noah Spence (E/LB)
- Carl Granderson
- Margus Hunt (E/T)
- Gus Cumberlander*
* = Rookie
The 30-Yr old Jordan is coming off a career-high 15.5 sacks, the fifth double-digit sack output of his nine-year career and his third straight Pro Bowl campaign. More than just a fearsome pass rusher, Jordan defends the run as well as any edge player in the league and is athletic enough to occasionally drop into coverage. He is equally effective at beating blockers with both power and finesse. Jordan had an incredible 49 quarterback pressures in 2019, along with 15 tackles for loss against constant double and triple-team blocking.
Marcus Davenport has flashed his tremendous upside in both of his NFL seasons. He has also shown a concerning trend of landing on the injured list. Davenport has missed significant time in each of his two years with foot injuries and was unavailable to the team during their 1st round playoff loss to the Vikings a year ago. At 6’6 265-Lbs Davenport brings impressive size and freakish athleticism to the position that makes him difficult for a single blocker to handle. He defends the run well and is blossoming into a disruptive pass rusher. Davenport had 6 sacks and 26 quarterback pressures in 2019 but must stay healthy to show worthy of being a top draft pick.
Trey Hendrickson has played solid football for the team since being a 3rd round selection in the 2017 draft. He plays the run well and added a career-best 4.5 sacks and 17 pressures last year. Hendrickson doesn’t have the athleticism of Jordan or Davenport but brings good size and a nonstop motor to the position. He is a capable starter when asked to fill in, but is much more effective adding depth to the rotation.
Mario Edwards Jr. strengthened the team’s defensive line depth as a free-agent addition last season. Edwards has the versatility to play at the edge and inside while adding five years of NFL experience. He had 3 sacks, 2 tackles for loss, and a forced fumble for New Orleans last season. Edwards can be a capable starter at an end or tackle spot if asked.
Carl Granderson flashed exciting potential as an undrafted rookie in 2019. Legal issues caused him to fall out of the draft and he missed offseason activities and the first part of the regular season. Once those were behind him he showed explosive pass rush ability and good strength at the line of scrimmage. Granderson had a sack, 3 pressures, and 11 tackles in eight games of action last year. He could be a much bigger part of the defense after a full offseason in the New Orleans system.
Gus Cumberlander hopes to follow Granderson in making an impact as an undrafted rookie. At 6’7 256-Lbs he has good length for the position and nice bend around the edge. Cumberlander struggled with knee injuries throughout his college career at Oregon though, playing in just 14 games in three seasons and only 4 contests last year. The Saints also signed former Colts starter Margus Hunt recently to compete for a spot along the defensive line. The 32-Yr old Hunt has impressive size at 6’8 295-Lbs. He began his career as a defensive end as a 2nd round draft pick by the Bengals in 2013 but has been more effective inside for the Colts over the last three seasons.
Rookie 3rd round pick Zach Baun and recent free-agent signing Anthony Chickillo could both be in the mix for a defensive end role in pass-rushing situations. Each player is better suited for a linebacker role in coordinator Dennis Allen’s Saints' defense but would be a factor as a situational pass rusher.
New Orleans signed Noah Spence late in the 2019 season to supply added quarterback pressure on the edge. They placed Spence on injured reserve without playing a game with the Saints but re-signed him this offseason. Spence entered the league as a 2nd round draft choice of the Buccaneers in 2016. He will see snaps at linebacker this preseason but his best chance to contribute will be as an edge rusher. He had 5.5 sacks as a rookie in 2016 but just two sacks in three years since. Spence has good upper body strength to take on tackles and has excellent burst around the edge.
Jordan’s excellence has been one constant for the New Orleans defense over the last decade, but the health of Davenport is a key to extra success for the entire unit. The Saints have failed to cause needed disruption upfront in key moments of some big games in recent seasons. The ability of some talented depth must step forward, but they drafted Marcus Davenport high to be a difference-maker for this New Orleans defense.