New Orleans Saints: 2021 is a crucial season for Zack Baun

New Orleans Saints, Zack Baun - Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
New Orleans Saints, Zack Baun - Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports /

New Orleans Saints linebacker Zack Baun had what many would describe as an underwhelming rookie season.

A third-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, Baun was seen as a tweener prospect coming out of Wisconsin and wasn’t really given a defined role in the defense during his rookie season.

The results showed on the field.

Baun played a total of just 82 defensive snaps in his rookie year, just over seven percent of the team’s total defensive snaps. For all intents and purposes, Baun was a nonfactor in 2020.

But now switching to a new position in 2021, the Saints hope that things will be different.

The New Orleans Saints hope Zack Baun will make a bigger impact in 2021.

It was recently revealed that Baun would be switching to more of a weak-side linebacker role after primarily playing on the strong-side last season. That switch is the first step to Baun carving out a role for himself on defense.

The SAM position is all but nonexistent in the Saints’ defensive gameplan with the “base” 4-3 being used sparingly throughout games. That resulted in Baun hardly ever seeing the field.

But as a WILL linebacker, not only will Baun’s responsibilities be different, but he’ll have a chance to earn significantly more playing time.

Of course, the major caveat will be that he’ll have to compete with second-round pick Pete Werner for snaps.

The Saints have high hopes for Werner who will look to replace the likes of Kwon Alexander and Alex Anzalone who departed in the offseason.

Baun will have to beat out Werner for playing time at WILL linebacker, all the while learning a new position. One that seems to be an odd fit for his skill set.

The 24-year-old thrived at Wisconsin as an exciting pass rusher who also doubled as a rock-solid run defender. Every so often, the Badgers would ask Baun to drop back into coverage, but it wasn’t exactly his calling card.

Baun made a living around the line of scrimmage as a playmaker, primarily when he was chasing down opposing quarterbacks. But that’s not what the Saints are asking him to do.

As a WILL linebacker, Baun will be a true off-ball linebacker lining up next to Demario Davis and frequently dropping back into coverage.

Right now, it’s nearly impossible to predict how he will fare in such a role. Mostly because there’s very little tape that exists of him performing the duties of a WILL linebacker.

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Zack Baun will be under a lot of pressure to succeed in 2021 after a disappointing rookie season. Safe to say, he better be a quick learner.