Shifting to the defensive trenches, so much good can be said about the Saints’ defensive line this season. They ranked sixth in sack%, and also allowed the fourth fewest yards per rush attempts,pt this season.
Cameron Jordan may have only had 7.5 sacks and 26 pressures this season, but he was certainly productive. His production mirrors his pre-2018 form, which is a little concerning, yet he also was the focus of opposing offensive lines and paved opportunities for other members of the defensive line.
The main beneficiary was Trey Hendrickson. In the first three years of his career, the 26-year-old had a grand total of 6.5 sacks and 16 quarterback hits. This season, he had 13.5 sacks, 25 quarterback hits, and 32 pressures.
Had he not gotten injured in Week 15, he likely would have led the league in sacks, and although he benefitted tremendously from clean-up sacks and pressures from the dominance of others, he had a fantastic season in his own right. He is about to earn a massive contract in free agency.
With Hendrickson taking on a much greater role, Marcus Davenport failed to play more than 70% of the snaps in a game this season. Also, he had half the quarterback hits (8) this season, and only had 11 pressures.
For someone that the Saints traded two first-round picks for, I’m not sure they were expecting more from him, though with Hendrickson likely to depart in free agency, perhaps he’ll reach his peak next season.
Remember, edge rushers tend to develop later than players at other positions- Hendrickson didn’t blossom until his fourth season.
The most underrated player on the Saints defense, in my opinion, is David Onyemata. It was a little surprising to see them sign him for three years and $27 million, but he may have made nearly twice that amount if he was a free agent this offseason.
He had a career-high 16 quarterback hits, 6.5 sacks, and 22 pressures. Interior pressure is harder to come by than edge pressure, making those numbers extremely impressive.
In addition to those four, interior defenders Shy Tuttle and Malcom Brown also contributed to the team’s efforts, particularly in run defense. The vast amount of depth they have on the defensive line is exceptional, and it has allowed them to do damage rushing the quarterback and limiting the run.
Thus, the back-seven can focus strictly on pass coverage, meaning that the overall effects of the defensive line came beyond their ability to rush the quarterback.
Overall Defensive Line Grade: A