4 NOLA Saints players entering boom or bust seasons in 2022

Marcus Davenport, Saints. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Marcus Davenport, Saints. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /

Which New Orleans Saints players are bracing for boom or bust seasons in 2022?

There’s a new feeling in Saints camp this offseason: hope. The potentially triumphant returns of Jameis Winston and Michael Thomas, among others, could usher in a new era of success under head coach Dennis Allen, and compared to last year, NOLA appears to be in prime position to make a deep playoff run.

Winston, Thomas, and other key starters will spearhead this exciting comeback season, yet the Saints will also need other players to step up and play the best football of their careers.

Some players drastically underperformed in years past and are getting their final chance to prove themselves on the field; others are entering a contract year and their future in NOLA also hangs precariously in the balance.

Here are four Saints players entering a pivotal season in 2022.

Zack Baun

Linebacker Zack Baun’s ego recently took a hit as it seems the team is giving newly signed free agents Jon Bostic and Eric Wilson first-team reps in camp.

With Pete Werner still out due to injury, this poses as a very troubling sign for Baun who was previously touted to earn at least a backup role in the linebacker corps.

Even in the preseason opener, Chase Hansen and Wilson arguably outplayed Baun and put his roster spot in jeopardy.

The former third-round pick has been exceptional on specials teams yet was drafted to turn into a starting-caliber off-ball linebacker for the Saints. For the last three years, Baun has been learning the ropes alongside the incomparable Demario Davis, and it’s time for him to take the next step in his career — whether that step is backwards or forwards. Baun enters 2022 with a looming boom or bust campaign ahead of him, and if he struggles in the defense yet again, he may not be with NOLA for much longer.

Adam Trautman

Tight end Adam Trautman heavily underperformed in the last two years and has his Saints career on the line in 2022. He reportedly seems more “comfortable” in the offense heading into Year 3, but the fact of the matter is he’s running out of excuses for his poor play.

In NOLA’s paper-thin tight end unit last year, Trautman posted just 27 catches for 263 yards and two touchdowns, which would be fine… if he were a rookie. The Saints’ last great tight end was Jared Cook, and after Cook left Trautman has had plenty of opportunities to secure the TE1 position for himself.

Given the Saints’ crowded receiver room this season, Trautman may not get to enjoy a full breakout season, but he has to see significant improvements in his game. Otherwise, New Orleans will almost certainly be searching for his replacement next offseason.

Cesar Ruiz

We previously wrote about how right guard Cesar Ruiz straddles the line between draft bust and draft success, so he naturally makes our list as a prime boom-or-bust candidate in 2022.

The former first-rounder played center and right guard last year and struggled at both positions, earning a mediocre 57.6 Pro Football Focus grade. This season carries serious consequences for Ruiz if he can’t turn into a starting-caliber offensive lineman — he’ll likely take snaps at right guard as long as Erik McCoy stays healthy and must prove he can be a consistent starter, first and foremost.

If not for the ongoing left tackle battle between James Hurst and Trevor Penning, Ruiz would easily be pegged as the weakest link in the Saints’ offensive line. He’s far from living up to his first-round potential and may be on his last leg in NOLA. It’s all or nothing for Ruiz in 2022.

Marcus Davenport

After being bitten by the injury bug over and over again, Davenport ought to have turned into a radioactive pass-rushing superhero by now.

The 2018 first-round pick started camp on the PUP list after surviving some pretty gnarly injuries from an amputated pinky finger to a nagging shoulder issue, and once he returns to full health he has everything riding on a healthy and productive campaign in 2022.

The first priority for Davenport should be staying on the field. Per Draft Sharks, Davenport has an 88 percent chance of missing two quarters in 2022, and in his four-year tenure in NOLA he’s only started 23 games.

Cam Jordan needs an heir, and either Davenport or Payton Turner have the best chance of developing into the Saints’ next elite pass-rusher. Davenport recorded a career-high nine sacks in 2021, but he has yet to solidify his place in the defensive end corps.

If Davenport misses a long stretch of the regular season yet again, he’ll serve as little more than an injury-prone depth piece, and it could be time to finally stick that bust label on him.

Next. 3 Saints we’d like to see more from in Week 2 of preseason. dark

So what will it be? Boom or bust? For these four Saints players, the clock is ticking…