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John DeShazier: Saints rookie Marcus Davenport focused on learning, growing

If an economy of words extrapolates to a bounty of play, then New Orleans Saints first-round draft pick Marcus Davenport is laying the foundation for a standout season.

His actions will speak louder than his words.

“Just trying to get better, learn the plays and develop as a player,” the defensive end said Saturday, the second day of New Orleans’ three-day rookie minicamp at the Ochsner Sports Performance Center.

Those charged with helping him develop believe that the 6-foot-6, 265-pound Davenport – the No. 14 overall pick who had 22 sacks, 38 tackles for loss, six forced fumbles and eight passes defensed – has the traits that will allow him to grow and produce.

“He’s got the athletic qualities that we’re looking for,” Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen said. “Mentally, he’s got the things that we’re looking for that give him a chance to have success.

“This camp is really kind of about getting accustomed to some of the verbiage that we’re going to use, getting used to some of the techniques that we’re going to ask him to play. So it’s kind of an introductory phase, but we’re certainly excited about the player.

“We’re going to play him at the right end to start off with and evaluate him there. I think the one thing that really stood out to us throughout the draft process was his ability to rush the passer. We felt like he had a unique skill-set that allowed him to be able to rush the passer. He’s got size, he’s got length, he’s got speed – all the qualities that you’re looking for, he has, and now it’s just a matter of getting him out here, getting him accustomed to what we’re going to ask him to do and helping him develop.”

Davenport wouldn’t narrow to a specific strength he possesses.

“I don’t even know. I’m really still working on it. I’m just trying to grow. I think I can do a lot of things, I’m just trying to figure out what my thing is,” he said.

But his ability to pressure quarterbacks is what triggered the Saints to move up in the draft, from No. 27 to 14, to select Davenport. So far, though the exposure has been limited, they like what they see.

“He’s doing well,” Coach Sean Payton said. “He’s getting a lot of work on his stance. He played from a two-point (stance) quite a bit a year ago, but he’s doing well.

“He’ll play in a three (-point stance) and there’ll be times where we stand him up, I’m sure. The key is the leverage and the technique. But he’s handling it well. He’s long.”

Said Allen: “This isn’t a process that just happens instantaneously. This is a process that happens over time and we’re going to continue to push the guy to develop. We’re excited about what we have and we’re going to continue to work with him and continue to watch him get better.”

NO KAMARA OVERLOAD: As of now, Payton said there shouldn’t be an expectation of a massively increased workload for running back Alvin Kamara in the absence of Mark Ingram, who is suspended for the first four regular-season games due to a violation of the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy.

Kamara, the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and an All-Pro and Pro Bowler in his first season, and Ingram, who set a career single-season high in rushing yards and also was name to the Pro Bowl, were the league’s most potent duo last season.

“There’ll be a handful of other guys that will be competing for those touches,” Payton said. “Certainly, you miss something with a guy like Mark Ingram in those early weeks that you normally would get, but for us it’s going to be evaluating that whole position and determining who can handle some of that role. Because the mistake would be that Alvin gets 15 more carries (per game). That’s not the direction we would expect to go and I don’t think that is wise.”

A HARD LOOK: One of the more intriguing prospects at minicamp is former Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett IV. Barrett, who wasn’t drafted, is the Big Ten career leader in passing touchdowns (104) and total offense (12,697). Barrett also ran for 43 touchdowns, and had three seasons of at least 11 rushing touchdowns at Ohio State.

“There’s a leadership presence about him,” Payton said. “He’s a good athlete, he’s played a lot of competitive football and he’s handled this camp very well. (He possesses) a lot of the things that you look for in that position. He certainly was worthy of being drafted and he’s done a good job here.”

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