My father always preached to me the difference between a need and a want. You need clothes...you want the latest Tommy Hilfiger apparel.
So, it pains me when I see those in the media write articles about how the Saints “need” for Marcus Davenport to start to establish himself because they “want” some shred of evidence to surface that justifies New Orleans relinquishing a first round pick in the 2019 NFL draft to move up and select him 14th overall.
Things like that lead to setting unattainable expectations, which can be dangerous when you are dealing with young players who are under the scrutiny of whomever to perform quickly.
Specifically, it’s how you end up with a sulking rookie.
The way Sean Payton, the staff, and even the players have protected Davenport to date has triggered images of a certain vibranium and proto-adamantium shield deflecting a blow from Thor’s hammer Mjölnir without any visible signs of damage. That image could be entirely different had other routes of motivational tactics been used. Take for instance, Eli Manning’s comment on rookie Saquon Barkley being out with a hamstring injury.
”Now Saquon, that’s different, just because he’s a rookie and missing some valuable time. So I know he’s getting mental reps. It’s different than practice reps; it’s different than game reps. Hopefully he can get back soon.”
To be clear, there is absolutely nothing wrong with what Eli Manning said.
In fact, with the leap Davenport is making from UTSA to the NFL, it is vitally important that he be able to practice and get reps to hone his skills. However, the Saints have made it a point to keep the negative feedback to a bare minimum. Instead, they’ve pumped out positive vibes at every corner in reference to their prized prospect.
Here are defensive line coach Ryan Nielsen’s comments on Davenport being out with an injury.
“It’s the mental part where I’m impressed with the guy,” defensive line coach Ryan Nielsen said. “He’s in the meetings early and he’s studying. When you have that – and I think our group has that. I think our group is a smart group of guys in terms of football IQ, and Marcus fits in that group.
“When you’re in the meetings and you’re watching, obviously you want to have to do the reps, but he’s listening and he’s learning the terminology and how we’re pass rushing and doing things. You’ll see when he comes back from this little injury here he’ll take the next step too.”
See the difference in how that’s being handled just from an organizational standpoint?
Success starts at the mental level and obviously the coaching staff recognizes this. Physically, Marcus Davenport has every tool imaginable to make a significant impact as an NFL player. He fits the height, weight, speed mold or “prototype” as Sean likes to refer to it perfectly. Yet, all too often it comes down to the mental strain that players take on that separates the guys who stick in the league versus the ones who are out in a year or two.
What the Saints “need” is for their rookie DE/LB not to get distracted by the outside noise and weight of being a first round pick that the media seems hell bent on pushing onto his plate.
Forget the sack #'s, tackles, all that. As long as the QB is hurrying throws on 3rd down he'll be worth it. 5 secs in the pocket =2 long. https://t.co/bqUQ2DFJb5— Ellias J Williams (@ElliasJWilliams) August 23, 2018
With guys like Cameron Jordan, Alex Okafor, Trey Hendrickson, Hau’oli Kikaha, Sheldon Rankins, and David Onyemata having the ability to get to the QB, the Saints likely “want” to add to that equation but putting the pressure of Davenport “needing” to be that missing piece just seems absurd.