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Saints rookie Trevor Penning could have growing pains in 2022

Let’s hope Penning gets up to speed sooner rather than later.

NFL: New Orleans Saints Rookie Minicamp Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve said this before, but the New Orleans Saints are in unfamiliar territory for 2022: “No, I’m not just talking about the departure of Drew Brees at quarterback or Sean Payton as head coach. I’m talking about something that could prove to be even more detrimental to the Saints’ chances of success in 2022 than even Brees and Payton getting replaced with Jameis Winston and Dennis Allen. I’m talking about the offensive line.”

At this point, the Saints have more question marks than “sure things” on the offensive line. Outside of Erik McCoy at center, there are concerns with every other position: Andrus Peat is coming back from injury. Cesar Ruiz has played...”poorly” far in his short career. Ryan Ramczyk had a down season last year. And the departed Terron Armstead will be replaced by a combination of a rookie in Trevor Penning and a journeyman in James Hurst.

The Saints season might turn on the play of the offensive line, and that’s why Bleacher Report listing Trevor Penning as a potential 2022 “bust” should be a bit concerning:

After letting Terron Armstead walk in free agency, the cash-strapped New Orleans Saints opted to fill their left tackle void by drafting Trevor Penning in the first round.

Penning is an intriguing prospect who has boom-or-bust potential. The Northern Iowa product has an enviable mix of size, athleticism and strength—assets that could make him an elite tackle in the NFL—but he’s still exceedingly raw in terms of talent.

The 6’7”, 332-pound tackle has the physical makeup and attitude of a franchise-caliber offensive lineman, but the work the No. 19 overall pick put on tape with the Panthers was more indicative of a late-round prospect.

If Penning doesn’t show improvement early on, it’s unlikely he’ll beat out James Hurst for the starting LT job.

It would be a disappointing start to the No. 19 overall pick’s career, one hopefully he will be able to overcome with some improvement from the bench.

Penning has all of the raw tools to be a mauler in the trenches, so we can just hope that potential begins to show in his rookie season and he’s able to avoid the dreaded “bust” label in his career:

Penning posted a 97.3 overall PFF grade and a (get this) 99.9 run blocking grade, which was obviously the best in the country. His 87.0 pass blocking grade wasn’t half bad either.

He plays with an edge and all the way through the whistle, which sometimes got him in some trouble with referees, earning 34 penalties. But typically, you want that nasty edge with offensive linemen.

His strength, athleticism and explosion are off the charts, referenced by his absurd combine numbers. At his size, he ran a 4.89 40-yard dash and a 7.25 three-cone drill – both in the 96th percentile or better. He also broad jumped 9’3”, which was 85th percentile.