Marcus Davenport has not yet been the caliber of player the New Orleans Saints envisioned when they drafted him in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. That’s no smoldering hot take. But at the same time, he hasn’t been terrible either. His career numbers don’t look great (12 sacks and 14 tackles for loss over the course of 3 NFL seasons), but there’s a lot of bad luck to blame, and I’m not just talking about injuries.
Look at this play from last season against the Carolina Panthers:
The play ultimately results in a turnover for the Saints defense, and while it wasn’t a sack-fumble on the part of Marcus Davenport, Davenport’s huge hit on P.J. Walker while Walker was trying to launch the ball down field ended up giving P.J. Williams (yes, that’s a pass from P.J.W. to P.J.W.) an easy interception.
Or look at this play where against the Chicago Bears in the divisional round of last year’s playoffs where he was only credited with half of a tackle:
It is Davenport’s speed, shifting inside, that helps clean up the tackle for loss started by Malcolm Brown on a 2nd-and-10 to set up 3rd-and-long.
But there are plays where Davenport’s impact on the game is even less noticeable until the tape begins to roll. Check out this play against the same Bears team from in the regular season:
Davenport won’t show up in the stat line at all for this one. No quarterback hit. No tackle for loss. No half of a sack. Nothing.
But Davenport’s lateral agility and strength in handling his blocker (Davenport is #92 in white at the top right of the gif) is what makes this play happen for the Saints defense. Bears running back David Montgomery has nowhere to go and wants to turn the corner and cut up field as soon as he can get past Marcus Davenport. The only problem is Davenport is too fast, giving Montgomery no space at the sideline. Davenport doesn’t make the play himself, but he is able to give his defense enough time for C.J. Gardner-Johnson to come in and make the tackle.
So to say Davenport’s time in New Orleans has been a disappointment doesn’t really take into account the entire picture. Sure, the Saints hoped he would be more of a impact-player at the NFL level, but the disparity between production and anticipated-production isn’t nearly as drastic as some fans might believe. Davenport is playing well when he’s healthy enough to be on the field, it’s just been a bit of bad luck that the sack totals and tackles for loss haven’t ended up in his stat column. With a little bit of luck reversal and a healthy 2021 season, Davenport could be on his way to a monster season.