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Saints Rookie / Top Draft Pick Marcus Davenport Needs to Get on the Field Soon to Avoid Being Labeled a “Bust”

A pulled groin muscle. For the New Orleans Saints and the rest of the teams in the National Football League, it's an injury that many players experience; which is an injury or tear to any of the adductor muscles of the thigh. These are the muscles on the inner side of the thigh.

Sudden movements can usually trigger an acute groin strain, such as kicking, twisting to change direction while running, or jumping. Athletes and especially NFL football players are most at risk for this injury. Groin strains aren’t usually serious, although a severe strain may take a long time to recover from.

It's also the reason why Saints rookie defensive Marcus Davenport has sat out most of his rookie year of Saints Training Camp while trying to recover from that very same type of injury detailed above.

Photo courtesy of Matthew Hinton, The New Orleans Advocate

From the team's perspective, holding Davenport out of action makes a lot of sense; since the injury could be made much worse if the team's medical staff were to clear Davenport and rushed him back into action. 

Additionally, 6th year veteran defensive end Alex Okafor — who is ahead of Davenport on the team's current depth chart as the starting right defensive end — has recovered ahead of schedule from a torn Achilles tendon injury that he suffered last season against the Washington Redskins and has had a phenomenal Training Camp thus far; which has lessened the need to get Davenport back on the field before he is truly ready.

But Saints fans being impatient as they often are, still are waiting for the opportunity to actually SEE the young man whom the team surrendered it's top pick in NEXT YEAR'S 2019 NFL Draft to the Green Bay Packers for, finally in some sort of action whether it be in a Pre-Season game or even just a simple practice.

Fair or not, there are ALWAYS going to be great expectations placed upon a player that you give up a future #1 Draft Pick to go and get. That's just the simple fact of reality for ANY NFL fan-base, much less fans from the 'Who Dat Nation'.

Photo courtesy of Michael C. Hebert

However, the Saints organization and the defensive coaching staff aren't nearly as concerned as Saints fans are; and they've gone to great lengths to ensure that Davenport has been present at every single practice while working off to the side under trainers’ supervision, as the team practices a few hundred feet away.

Davenport at least has one thing going for him which should help his eventual transition to the professional game immensely, which is the tutelage and guidance that he's been getting from D-Line coach Ryan Nielsen; who last week tried to ease the concerns that 'Who Dats' still have, with Davenport not being able to take the field:

“It’s the mental part where I’m impressed with the guy. 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.”

Photo courtesy of Michael C. Hebert

Nielsen's comments should bring a sense of relief to those fans who have been worried about Davenport's development, which is believed to have been slowed by his difficulties with learning how to adapt to the proper pass-rushing techniques commonly utilized by NFL players at his position.

More specifically: the most vocal of Davenport's critics have questioned his capability to play with his "hand in the dirt", which he's considered better suited to do by most analysts because of his length and size (6-foot-7, 264 pounds).

Many of those same critics believe that Davenport can be neutralized at times by bigger offensive tackles when he comes off the outside edge as a "stand-up" rusher in a 2-point stance (for NFL D-Linemen in the base 4-3 defense, sometimes it’s actually harder to get a good jump off the ball when you don’t have your "hand in the dirt" — a.k.a., a 3-point stance).

In a recent article, New Orleans Advocate beat wtiter Joel A. Erickson noted that lining up with a hand on the ground or "in the dirt", then exploding out of that position and staying low, requires excellent technique; and Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen's defense normally lines up its defensive ends in a 3-point stance. 

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Davenport played in a 3-point stance in his first two seasons at the University of Texas-San Antonio, but that was before he packed on most of the weight he carries now. 

"He’s receiving a lot of work on his stance," Saints head coach Sean Payton said to Erickson and the rest of 'Saints Media right before Training Camp started. "He played in the two-point quite a bit a year ago."

"He’ll play in a three, and there’ll be times where we stand him up, I’m sure," Payton said. "The key is the leverage and the technique, but he’s handling it well. He’s long."

"We felt like he had a unique skill set that allowed him to be able to rush the passer," Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen said. "He has size, length, speed, so all the qualities that you’re looking for, he has. It’s getting him out here, getting him accustomed to what we’re going to ask him to do and helping him to develop."

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Erickson observed that Nielsen — aided by defensive assistant / pass-rushing specialist Brian Young — had already gotten ahead of the curve with Davenport by working with him on his technique a few months ago back during Rookie Mini-Camp in May; and that process will be ongoing as the talented rookie continues learning the "ins and outs" of playing the position.

And as Erickson also notes: the art of pass rushing in the NFL is far more than athleticism. All-Pros like Cam Jordan are technicians, experts who study offensive linemen and alter their attack throughout a game to counter an opponent's game plan. All of that has to be learned. 

Unfortunately, the problem for Saints fans is that it can't happen soon enough. 

Especially those fans who believe that the team may not be completely forthcoming with what might be going on with Davenport, "behind the scenes".

(Photo by Michael DeMocker, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)

Even if the team is doing right by being overly cautious with Davenport, the speculation surrounding his development will linger on until we actually see him play, which might not be until a week from this Saturday when the Saints visit the Los Angeles Chargers on August 25th in the 3rd Pre-Season game.

And it could be likely that he won't actually see any action until the Regular Season.

Nevertheless, let's be clear: the Saints are being SMART by not rushing Davenport into the line-up, before he's physically (or mentally) ready to play.

But until that actually happens?

Then the rumors and the whispers surrounding the soon-to-be 22 year old will only continue to persist.

Regardless of whether you think that's fair or not, at some point Davenport needs to get on the field and he needs to do it sometime soon — if he and the Saints franchise want to avoid having certain National Media-types labeling him as a "bust".....

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Saints News Network Editor / Featured Columnist Barry Hirstius is a 51-year old semi-retired journalist, former New Orleans-area sports editor, and columnist previously with several sites that exclusively cover the New Orleans Saints football team. Additionally, he is a recurring guest on a variety of local Sports Talk Radio programs. Barry is also a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the team while attending games as a young boy at the old Tulane Stadium in the early 1970’s, originally following and now covering the team for a span of over 40 plus years. And perhaps most importantly of all: he is the Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity.....

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