Hurst vs. Penning could be the most important Saints camp battle in 2022

New Orleans Saints (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
New Orleans Saints (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images) /

The New Orleans Saints have roughly two and a half months to put together a playoff contending squad in 2022, and all eyes will be on the upcoming series of training camp battles.

How well will NOLA’s elite wideout trio perform under the arm of Jameis Winston this preseason? Who will be the starting corner alongside Marshon Lattimore? And how will New Orleans fill the hole Terron Armstead left behind?

The left tackle position will likely come down to veteran James Hurst and 2022 first-rounder Trevor Penning, each of whom bring different traits to the table.

Hurst’s eight years of experience in the league make him the more reliable starter, but Penning has more upside and could quickly grow into a consistent performer in the trenches.

In 2021, Hurst started 15 games for the Saints and took snaps at nearly every position on the line, with the most (427 snaps) at left tackle. He finished the year with a respectable 69.8 Pro Football Focus grade and could easily pick up where he left off, using his valuable experience to his advantage.

Saints’ James Hurst and Trevor Penning will battle it out for the LT position

Penning, for his part, has been developing well so far this preseason but isn’t quite ready to start on the field just yet. He’ll do well to take more time to hone his skills and refine his talents, and it could be years before he lives up to his first-round potential; nonetheless, he serves as a decent backup, at least, and could swoop in and take the starting job by mid-season.

The rest of the Saints’ O-line looks more or less the same as it did in 2021: Ryan Ramczyk playing right tackle, Cesar Ruiz at right guard, Eric McCoy at center, and Andrus Peat at left guard.

Yet Hurst and Penning have one of the more important positions in the trenches as the tackles on the left side, and both will need to have solid seasons to keep Jameis Winston upright and the passing offense humming.

Winston’s ability to perform under pressure in the pocket remains to be seen, and the O-line will obviously play a crucial part in how well he fares in the 2022 season. There’s no use in drafting quality wideouts like Chris Olave if Winston doesn’t have the time or space to throw, so a young tackle like Penning could turn into an underrated star for the team if he earns the starting job and stays productive all year.

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Right now, our money is on Hurst keeping his spot while Penning continues working on his craft. Buckle in for perhaps the most pivotal camp battle of the preseason between a vet and a rookie  jostling for starting snaps in 2022.