Saints: Rookie draft class is impressing five games into the season
By Kristen Wong
Payton, Pete, and Paulson are the new kids on NOLA’s block, but these New Orleans Saints rookies have already made an impact through five games.
Each has brought something new to the table, whether it’s Payton Turner’s shiftiness, Pete Werner’s player coverage, or Paulson Adebo’s consistency.
Each also played huge roles in New Orleans’ Week 5 win against Washington, as reporter Brian Baldinger pointed out on Twitter.
Payton Turner hasn’t fully lived up to this first-round potential, but then again, he did suffer a slight elbow injury early this season. So far in 2021, he’s played in 37 percent of defensive snaps and 15 percent of special teams snaps and has recorded one sack, nine combined tackles, and three quarterback hits.
As with any defensive end, the stat sheet doesn’t tell the whole story, and Turner has played a significant role in the pass-rushing unit as a rookie. He’s widely considered the heir to Marcus Davenport’s spot, and at the rate he’s improving (and at the rate Davenport hasn’t been), the young and shifty defender might be even better.
Analyzing the 2021 New Orleans Saints draft class through five weeks of the season
Pete Werner also missed the Saints’ opener against Green Bay due to a hamstring injury, but he entered the lineup in Week 3 against New England and hasn’t looked back since. Through four games, Werner has played 45 percent of defensive snaps and 12 percent of special teams snaps, and in the last two games he posted double-digit tackles.
The former Buckeye currently ranks fourth on the team in tackles (25 total, 15 solo, and 10 assists), and trails only Demario Davis, Malcolm Jenkins, and fellow rookie Paulson Adebo.
Werner has enjoyed more playing time due to Kwon Alexander’s absence, and while his numbers are trending upward, he has struggled a bit in pass coverage. He allowed a roughly 82 percent pass completion of balls thrown his way, but under the tutelage of Davis and Alexander, he’s bound to develop quickly.
Finally, third-rounder Paulson Adebo has been arguably the biggest and most welcome surprise in the defensive unit, tandem-ing the backfield with veteran corner Marshon Lattimore. New Orleans likely weren’t planning to start him right away, but due to a variety of factors, Adebo has started all five games and shined in nearly all of them.
Adebo places third in tackles on the team (23) and also has two passes defended. The Stanford product allowed 22 completions of 36 targets, which comes out to an average of 12.5 yards per completion.
While Adebo still has to work on his missed tackles, he’s often been the saving grace of a severely dilapidated Saints’ secondary in 2021.
Preseason may not have been a good indication of player performances, but through five weeks of the 2021 season, the three P’s have shown more strengths than weaknesses on the field. They have 12 more games to prove themselves as worthy NFL players and potential Saints’ starters.