As Saints Shift Focus Back to Football, Spotlight Will Shine Directly on Davenport

Photo Credit: New Orleans Saints on YouTube,com

Pure and indisputable “raw” talent. “Breath-taking” athleticism. The potential to even become “dominant”. Those are just a few of the complimentary and praise-worthy terms that have been used within the past few recent weeks and months, to refer to New Orleans Saints edge pass rusher / defensive end Marcus Davenport.

But as the Saints organization begins to return its attention back towards the football field following the current tumultuous events (specifically the coronavirus pandemic and the nation-wide “Black Lives Matter” protests) that have impacted the entire nation — the spotlight in due time will be shining directly on the young man who more so than any other single player on the team’s roster — has the most to prove this upcoming season.

The soon-to-be 24-year old Davenport. who team management traded away the franchise’s #1 draft pick in the 2018 NFL Draft to the Green Bay Packers, to move up several spots in the draft order selection and acquire him with the #14 overall pick (against the wishes among a fairly-sizable portion of the team’s fan-base); will be entering Year #3 of his still very-promising pro career.

But the former stand-out pass-rushing phenom out of the small school University of Texas-at San Antonio football program will be watched very closely and heavily scrutinized more than ever this coming season than in his first two seasons wearing the Black and Gold, simply because he hasn’t yet fully lived up to the lofty expectations that came along with his well-publicized and much-hyped arrival.

While he certainly has displayed some occasional “ESPN Sports Center Top 10 highlights”– like moments during his first two years in the NFL, Davenport in 2020 will need to show his many lingering doubters and critics that he indeed is more than capable of fulfilling his indisputable potential to become one of the League’s elite-caliber pass rushers.

However, without question: Davenport’s ability to remain healthy for a majority of an entire full 16-game season will be the key, for that possibility to actually come to full fruition.

As noted recently in his outstanding and detail-oriented film-study / analysis of Davenport, New Orleans.Football analyst Nick Underhill says that Davenport— despite the fact that his playing time has been limited due to lingering foot injury-issues — has PROVEN that he is indeed more than capable of getting to opposing quarterbacks and doing it at the highest level.

In other words: Davenport is very likely A WHOLE LOT BETTER than his most-harshest critics and “haters” among both fans and some well-known NFL observers out there, think that he is or have given him credit for.

Photo Credit: Marcus Davenport on

Many Saints fans who have been disappointed by Davenport’s overall performance up to this point, have been clamoring for the team to pursue current free agent pass-rushing superstar Jadaveon Clowney.

But it was Underhill who observed that Davenport possesses the purely-raw capability to actually become a top-rated edge pass-rushing force throughout the entire NFL, either as a stand-up or a “hand-in-the-dirt” defensive end. And that proof is clearly in the numbers, which Underhill notes includes 41 QB “pressures” last season on 307 total snaps, or one pressure for every 6.28 snaps.

Additionally, Davenport also averaged a rather quick and impressive 3.14 seconds worth of time that it took for him to reach the QB once the ball was snapped. By comparison, last season Davenport’s fellow teammate and All-Pro defensive end Cam Jordan, averaged 3.09 seconds.

Underhill further added that out of his 41 total pressures, 30 of them were standing upright while only the other 11 of them came with his hand on the turf; which he says was interesting to note since it was nearly  “flipped-flopped” as a rookie in 2018, when he actually had more success (16 out of his total 29 pressures) in the hand-down position.

To further Underhill’s point. the folks over at Pro Football Focus made the observation recently that Davenport’s 84.1 overall grade through 14 weeks of the 2019 season last year, ranked him 15th overall out of 108 qualifying edge defenders.

Ironically enough was the fact that he also graded out as one of the very best run defenders at the position, and he was one of just 16 edge rushers with 50 or more quarterback pressures through Week #14.

In his first 2 NFL seasons, Davenport has appeared in 26 total games, and has amassed 10.5 sacks, 53 tackles (27 solo. 26 assisted), caused 4 forced fumbles, and has tallied 11 tackles-for-loss and 28 QB “hits”.

While his biggest detractors will argue that some of the League’s very best pass rushers could put up those same type of numbers in only just ONE single NFL season, Davenport still was solid whenever he was able to stay out on the football field.

Davenport started at right defensive end in 12 games last season and posted 29 stops against the run before he eventually ended up landing on the Injured Reserve list. Nevertheless, Davenport still managed to finish ranked 2nd overall on the defensive “Front 7” with 5.5 sacks  and led the team with 4 forced fumbles.

His very best game of the entire year came against the Black and Gold’s hated divisional arch-rivals, the Atlanta Falcons, in a Week #13 contest at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in downtown Atlanta.

In that contest. Davenport came up with a HUGE individual performance. as he recorded 4 tackles, two sacks, and caused a career-high three fumbles (two of them forced), even though he only played 49 percent of the defensive snaps in that game. The Saints went on to beat the Falcons in that memorable contest by a final score of 26-18 on Thanksgiving Night.

It’s also very important to note that because of the injuries combined with the particular way in which the Saints utilize rotation / substitution packages at Davenport’s usual right defensive end spot (on the side opposite of Jordan) within the parameters of Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen‘s scheme; that he is VERY  EFFECTIVE whenever he’s been inserted into the line-up.

That’s the whole reason why analysts such as Underhill believe that Davenport has only “scratched the surface” of his actual true potential to become a future NFL defensive superstar.

Now it simply will all come down to Davenport trying to remain relatively injury-free, and his capability to be able to consistently display the incredible raw talent and athleticism; that many others feel that he definitely can provide for New Orleans week in and week out, as the team moves forward into the future.

Photo Credit: KSAT-TV, San Antonio, TX

And while some Saints fans will continue “beating the drum” for the team to invest in the pass-rushing services of Jadaveon Clowney, those who recognize Davenport’s pure talent for what it truly is, are hoping that he can finally put it all together and have a “break-out” season in the upcoming months ahead.

So as the Saints now slowly begin the process of turning their attention back towards the football field itself, there isn’t any doubt whatsoever that once the season kicks off at the Superdome on September 13th against Tom Brady and the division rival Tampa Bay Buccaneers, that many eyes will be focused on the young man wearing jersey #92.

That’s because once the Saints defense takes the field on that fateful afternoon, the spotlight will be shining directly on the young man with the unlimited pure potential to become one of the NFL’s future young defensive superstars — the very same young man who goes by the name of Marcus Davenport….

Barry Hirstius is a semi-retired journalist, who has worked previously as a sports editor and columnist. Barry is a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the Saints while attending their games as a young boy during the early 1970’s, uptown at the old Tulane Stadium. He is also the proud Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity. Follow him on Twitter: @BarryHirstius

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