The New Orleans Saints defense has been nothing short of “sensational” in their past 3 games, and that phenomenal effort has led the Black and Gold to 3 consecutive wins in a row now since the team initially lost starting QB Drew Brees to a torn thumb ligament in their only defeat this season thus far: a Week #2 loss to the Los Angeles Rams.
Yesterday at the Superdome before a sold-out home crowd filled with 70.000-plus screaming Who Dat fans, the New Orleans defense and particularly the defensive line, was the main catalyst once again behind that winning effort.
But there was one player in particular who clearly stood out above all others in the team’s 31-24 victory over their NFC South Division rivals Tampa Bay: Saints 2nd year defensive end Marcus Davenport.
The 22-year old Davenport has drawn a ton of scrutiny from both analysts and fans alike since his arrival last year when the team traded up with the Green Bay Packers in last year’s 2018 NFL Draft to acquire the pass rushing-phenom and “small school” defensive superstar. from the University of Texas-El Paso.
Yesterday however. the athletically-gifted Davenport turned in what may have been his finest performance of his young professional career thus far; when the San Antonio, Texas native was responsible for five of the Saints’ six sacks against Buccaneers starting QB Jameis Winston.
As noted by NOLA,com / New Orleans Advocate beat writer Luke Johnson: the “highlight play” turned by Davenport — who finished with 2 sacks and 3 QB “hits” that led to 3 more additional sacks by his teammates — was when the 2nd year edge pass rusher burst off the line of scrimmage at the snap of the football; where he proceeded essentially to completely RUN OVER Buccaneers 11th veteran offensive tackle Demar Dotson.
Marcus Davenport (92) is figuring out how to use his ridiculous length/power combo and it’s pretty scary looking. pic.twitter.com/kJm3JjfxfC
— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) October 7, 2019
Johnson described the move by Davenport as a display of pure power, a beautifully brutal bull rush that Dotson had no chance of stopping.
“A freak of nature,” Saints All-Pro defensive end Cam Jordan said to Johnson, in regards to the effort by Davenport. “I keep saying that since we drafted him. A freak of nature. And he’s going to continue growing. That’s all you have to do, continue progressing. You saw it today, he’s starting to get lethal off the edge.”
Winston was faced with relentless pressure throughout a majority of yesterday’s contest; and every single one of their six sacks came from the defensive line, including take-downs by Jordan, Sheldon Rankins, rookie Carl Granderson, and veteran nose tackle Malcom Brown.
And on several occasions, the Tampa Bay signal-caller was forced from the pocket and basically had to run for his life while eventually then having to throw the ball away out of bounds, before any of the Saints linemen could bring him down.
But the one thing that seemingly remained consistent through all 60 minutes, was the non-stop aggression and top-notch individual effort by Davenport — who after having endured months of heavy criticism for a perceived lack of effort — totally UNLEASHED his well-known pass-rushing skills yesterday afternoon.
Davenport is now tied with Jordan and fellow defensive end Trey Hendrickson for the team lead in sacks with a total of (3) of them in the first five games. but clearly the much-maligned youngster will be seeking many more ways to impact the game defensively, as the season continues to progress onward.
But some of the credit for Davenport’s emergence certainly belongs to both Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen as well as defensive line coach Ryan Nielsen; both of whom had placed their unwavering faith in the youngster’s abilities to eventually become the player that they hoped he would be, despite his less-than-glorious start to his professional career.
“I’d love to get a ton of sacks, but that’s not the way this game is all the time,” Allen said to Johnson in an interview last week. “Are we affecting the quarterback? Are we getting the quarterback off the spot? Are we getting hits on the quarterback? Certainly, I think Marcus has been able to do that.”
“And if you continue to do that on a week-in, week-out basis, the stats come. So he’s just got to continue doing all the things he’s doing.”
“There’s a lot of times that people can be very productive within the game and have an impact on the game, yet when you look at the stat sheet it doesn’t look like they had much of an impact on the game,” Allen said.
Allen’s assessment was something that Davenport himself acknowledges, as he seeks to earn a more extensive role at the edge rush position opposite of Jordan at left defensive end.
“I look at it like it’s a step,” Davenport said. “Disruptive? That’s something people say. But I’m trying to be dominant. I need to take that step. To take that step I’ve got to get the sacks and stop missing opportunities.”
“… I’m sick of close. That doesn’t really mean much to me. It’s basically like I didn’t get there if I didn’t get it. I understand there are pressures and ways to affect the quarterback, but I just need to do better.”
Based on what we saw against the Buccaneers and Winston at the Superdome yesterday, Davenport appears to be already close to achieving that goal.
And in the process, he’s finally making his presence felt for the Saints D-Line — which was a part of the original plan, all along….