Trey Hendrickson surprised us all last season, as he came out of nowhere to have a career year and lead the team with 13.5 sacks, more than doubling his career total up to that point. Now that the offseason is coming to an end, we can take a look at which players on the 2021 roster we will be talking about in a different light this time next year.
Sheldon Rankins’s departure leaves David Onyemata as the clear top option at Defensive Tackle. The Saints defensive line will not have the depth it did in 2020, as in addition to Rankins, Trey Hendrickson also left in free agency. Onyemata had a career high in sacks in 2020 at 6.5, doubling his total from 2019. Onyemata’s role will be increased in 2021, and he seems to be peaking at the right time to be able to take advantage of this. Despite already having a career year in 2020, Onyemata is rarely mentioned among the leagues best at his position. In 2021, he could gain such recognition if he is able to improve on 6.5 sacks and move into double digits in the category.
Deonte Harris-(As a WR)
We all know how good Deonte Harris is as a kick returner, but he has not been used very much in the offense in his first two years in the league. The Saints offense lacks speed, and Harris’s involvement would work perfectly with Jameis Winston’s big arm. Harris is the Saints best option to stretch the defense and also take end arounds or jet sweeps, as his elusiveness and instincts on punt returns should translate well to these types of plays. He showed flashes at the end of 2020, especially in the first playoff game against the Chicago Bears, in which he caught 7 balls for 83 yards to lead the team. Harris has all the physical tools to be a great gadget player, all that is left is learning how to play the position like a Pro Bowler.
Much like David Onyemata, Marcus Davenport will receive a significantly increased role on the defensive line this year. The first round pick will look to pick up the production left behind by Hendrickson, as he is now the best option the Saints have at DE outside of Cameron Jordan. Davenport just had his fifth-year option picked up, and could look to prove that he has earned a second contract by turning in a career year in 2021. A new contract and a rookie DE in Payton Turner nipping at his heels should provide Davenport with all the motivation he needs to have a breakout season in 2021.
Cesar Ruiz had a decent rookie season in 2020, but he bounced in and out of the lineup and did not have the instant success that a player like Erik McCoy did. Now that Ruiz’s main competitor for snaps Nick Easton is gone however, Ruiz should settle in to his new position at guard after transitioning from playing center in college. This stability, and having a year under his belt to learn the new position should help Ruiz look like the first round pick he is in 2021.
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