The New Orleans Saints will need some key players to step into much larger roles this year after losing a lot this past offseason. New Orleans lost both key veterans and role players due to the salary cap, and these three players will have to step up this season if the Saints want to keep contending.
Deonte Harris has been an All-Pro punt returner for the Saints, but he could be so much more. Deonte has slowly been inserted into the offense with fly sweeps and shot plays over the course of 2020, but all in all he had a fair amount of important snaps on offense. The Saints never could unlock Harris’s ceiling because of injuries with Drew Brees, who had problems extending the ball down the field even when he was healthy.
Harris and Tre’Quan Smith could see expanded roles with big-arm QBs Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill at the helm. Deonte has started to mold his game into an all-around threat and could take on part of the targets lost from Emmanuel Sanders. Deonte has all of the potential in the world to be a WR comparable to Tyreek Hill. Both are small (albeit Harris is a little shorter, as Harris is 5’6 and Hill is 5’10), but both take the top off the opposing defense with game-breaking speed and both can break off a touchdown at any spot on the field. With a higher volume of receptions, Harris should be able to put up fair WR2/WR3 numbers. Last season, Harris put up only 186 yards on 20 receptions with a touchdown. We could see those numbers triple next season if he steps up.
Marcus Davenport a/k/a “Two Firsts” has yet to have large production in the NFL after the Saints traded up for him in the 2018 NFL Draft. The talent and flashes of skill have always been there, now Davenport needs to put it all together.
This year, with the departure of break-out player Trey Hendrickson, Davenport needs to put it all together and get the sack totals everyone wants to see. Davenport’s offseason has been encouraging with coaches saying this is the most healthy he’s been coming into OTAs in his NFL career. Earlier this offseason the Saints decided to exercise Davenports’ 5th-year option, keeping him under contract for another two seasons. Davenport, during an injury-plagued year in 2020, only had 1.5 sacks, a huge step back from 2019 with 6 sacks. This upcoming year will be a big indicator of his future with the Saints, as New Orleans used their first-round spick on another defensive end, Payton Turner.
Davenport will be the presumable starter, but there will be talent behind him coming for his job. The most important part for Marcus Davenport is his health, because he hasn’t had the best luck with injuries thus far. As they say: The best ability is availability.
Adam Trautman will need a big sophomore leap after becoming the feature tight end in the offense. In his rookie season, “Big Fish” Trautman sat behind Jared Cook, who was released this offseason and is now with the Los Angeles Chargers.
Considering New Orleans declined to really address the pass-catching tight end position elsewhere this offseason, Trautman caught the eyes of the coaching staff enough to have confidence with him being the Saints’ TE1. Trautman only had 171 yards and a touchdown in his rookie campaign, but in his sophomore season this year, we could see those numbers skyrocket.
Trautman has spent a large part of his offseason working out with quarterback Jameis Winston. They spent time working on 7-on-7 passing concepts, among other work to develop chemistry between the two players. The tight end room will look a whole lot different next year with the Saints adding Nick Vannett and switching Juwan Johnson to tight end, but Trautman will be the presumable starter with a lot of footballs expected to be thrown his way.