In 2018, the New Orleans Saints sold the proverbial farm to snag raw but talented Marcus Davenport. Injuries, however, have curtailed the defensive end from living up to the promise so far.
A turf toe injury relegated him to 13 games and 4.5 sacks during his rookie season. Last year, the pass rusher started 13 games, tallying six sacks. While he started slow, the young rusher began to come on strong. In Weeks 12 and 13 against division foes (Carolina and Atlanta), Davenport compiled three sacks, seven tackles, two tackles for loss and two forced fumbles. Then, as his luck would have it, he suffered a Week 14 Lisfranc injury that ended his year.
Heading into Year 3, the Saints expect the young edge rusher to be back at full force and improve in 2020.
"He definitely has room to get better and it's there, the potential and the growth is there," Saints defensive line coach Ryan Nielsen said, via The Times-Picayune. "I think he made a big step last season. There's some games where he was playing lights-out.
"Talking to him, I think his confidence is better this offseason. He's working hard and I know he had a couple of injuries, but he's put the work in."
Nielsen noted that if healthy and motivated, Davenport owns the talent to be a disruptive difference-maker on a deep Saints defense.
"Every time I talk to him, he's saying all the right things, he's doing the right things," Nielsen said. "It's Year 3. Yep, we expect more from him, as we do with everybody else. I'm excited to start working with Marcus, but there is some growth and there's some things that we've just got to do a little bit better and we'll work on that."
A healthy Davenport would make the Saints' already stellar defense even more scary-good. With perennial powerhouse Cameron Jordan and him coming off the edge, one will be single-blocked each drop back. Trey Hendrickson is a stellar third rusher. If Sheldon Rankins returns healthy, he'll team with David Onyemata in the middle to form a stout front. Linebacker Demario Davis is an underrated speeding bullet who patrols the entire gridiron. Third-rounder Zack Baun can upgrade the linebacker crew and owns the ability to rush the passer when asked. The secondary boasts Marshon Lattimore and Janoris Jenkins on the outside with safeties Malcolm Jenkins and Marcus Williams.
On paper, the Saints own the best roster in the NFL. The defense would be that much better if Davenport returns healthy. If he can replicate the impact he had in his final two games of 2019, New Orleans will finally have that matching bull opposite Jordan for which it's been so desperately searching.