The New Orleans Saints don’t have the meatiest defensive line going into the season partly because they lost Sheldon Rankins and Trey Hendrickson, among other heavy-hitters.
The Saints thankfully added Tanoh Kpassagnon to round out a semi-admirable defensive end unit, but on the tackle side, David Onyemata carries the brunt of the work. Unfortunately, he’ll miss six games due to a suspension.
Last year, the Saints had a run stop win rate of 30 percent overall (19th in the league), which the defensive tackles no doubt want and need to improve.
Here are the Saints’ defensive line options, along with their respective positions, for 2021:
- Cameron Jordan (DE)
- Marcus Davenport (DE)
- Carl Granderson (DE)
- Tanoh Kpassagnon (DE)
- Payton Turner (DE)
- Noah Spence (DE)
- Christian Ringo (DE)
- David Onyemata (DT
- Shy Tuttle (DT)
- Malcolm Roach (DL)
- Jalen Dalton (DT)
- Ryan Glasgow (DT)
- Josiah Bronson (DT)
- Albert Huggins (DT)
- Lorenzo Neal (DT)
Perennial Pro Bowler Cam Jordan heads the list as one of the league’s best-run defenders along the edge. He’ll be the Saints’ go-to pass rusher for sure, but the 32-year-old has played 900 or more snaps in almost every year of his career, and he just won’t be able to play like he used to. His numbers are already falling: last season, Jordan led the Saints defense in quarterback pressures (61), but that’s a dip from his five-year streak of 70-plus pressures.
Marcus Davenport takes the place as the other edge-rusher who could become a star this season. Or he could be a bust. The jury’s still out on that one, but given his historically poor production (just 12 sacks and 60 pressures in three seasons), this very well could be his last year on the Saints.
New Orleans Saints D-line gets a makeover this season
The Saints may have found a young heir for Davenport in 2021 first-round pick Payton Turner, but Turner still has a long way to go. Whether New Orleans’ high expectations for the kid will make him or break him, only next season can tell. Turner studied Jordan’s and Davenport’s highlight reels prior to being drafted, so he could have an advantage in the system already.
David Onyemata and Shy Tuttle will likely be the defensive tackles, but following Onyemata’s potential suspension for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy, the Saints may need to look deeper in the roster for another tackle to start the season. Onyemata enters his sixth season with the Saints, and aside from Tuttle, most available tackles are on the wrong side of 30.
The relevant backups: Carl Granderson seriously impressed on the Saints’ defensive lineup with nine quarterback hits and five sacks in 15 games last season. He enters his third season with New Orleans, and if he can replicate last year’s numbers, he could earn a starting position in 2021.
Super Bowl winner Tanoh Kpassagnon joined New Orleans this offseason and could be the most exciting player to watch in training camp. He started off slow in his four years at Kansas City but possesses the raw and physical presence to make, at the very least, a rotational impact for the defense.
Malcolm Roach is touted to have a breakout season this year with nine pro games under his belt. Jalen Dalton suffered a season-ending injury last training camp and will have to work even harder for the backup tackle role. Ryan Glasgow signed a reserves/ futures contract with the Saints this January and shows some promise as a depth piece.
Needless to say, the Saints defensive line got a fresh new coat of paint this offseason. With a mix of the old and the new, of blossoming stars and underperformers, there’s no telling how the defense will play out. New Orleans have a few precious D-linemen they can rely on, but most of the roster will need to prove their worth on the field.