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Marcus Davenport ready to make his mark with New Orleans Saints defense

Second-year defensive end posted 4.5 sacks, two passes defensed as a rookie

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For now, Marcus Davenport isn't winning.

He knows it. He admits it. He laughs about it because in the grand scheme, as he begins his second training camp with the New Orleans Saints, the defensive end understands that despite his striking gifts, left tackle Terron Armstead, against whom he takes a significant portion of his one-on-one reps during training camp, is an All-Pro. Armstead, when healthy, is among the elite tackles in the league and has been for the last several years.

"I'm still trying to beat him," Davenport said. "It's another year, same time, still trying to beat him. I still ask him, 'What are you doing here (on this play)?' We talk about different things."

The goal is for training camp losses to birth gameday wins, and Davenport appears to be on the right track.

His rookie season was a mixed bag in terms of production: 4.5 sacks – including a four-sacks-in-four-games stretch – two passes defensed and a forced fumble in 13 games. He missed three with a toe injury and after the season, while posting a picture on social media after undergoing a surgical procedure, he suggested that he finished the year while dealing with an injury that ordinarily would have been season-ending.

But there was no mistaking that Davenport has the traits the Saints were expecting to see when they made the move to draft him in 2018 (in order to move up to No. 14 in the first round, the Saints gave the Packers the Nos. 27 and 147 picks of the '18 draft, plus their first-rounder this year).

He's long (6 feet 6), lean (265 pounds), fast, agile, and stronger than his frame suggests.

"I'm excited about Marcus," Armstead said. "I'm not excited to take these bull rushes during this training camp. He's strong, man. Strong. He's got a lot of length, explosive ability.

"I'm excited about him, I saw it during the season, the progress he's made as a rusher, understanding rushes more. And I think his progress is only going to continue. We're going to give each other a hard time during this camp."

Armstead and others will see a different version of Davenport this camp. For one, he'll be a more confident player.

"With time, you get to have confidence especially when you were learning the playbook and you know the playbook better and you're able to move faster," Davenport said. "So I'm hoping to move faster.

"It's not about the assignment. More, it's about actually executing it. That's a big help."

Secondly, he's more knowledgeable. Davenport said he'll begin to use his power to set up other rush moves.

"Especially with me, I used to use power and then I kind of fluttered," he said. "Now, I'm trying to work more finesse. Terron is definitely great with his feet and has great hands, so that's what I've been trying to use, more hands. It's still a challenge."

The Saints believe the challenge will be met, which partly explains their confidence that Davenport successfully will step in as the starter at right defensive end, a position where Alex Okafor started 26 regular-season games and totaled 8.5 sacks in the previous two seasons.

"You're put in a position to win and do your job, and that's what I'm here to do," he said. "So whatever job that comes, you've got to be able to do it.

"It's win every play. You've got to take it one play at a time, so I can't even think about that next play. I've got to be able to win this play."

For now, the regular-season winning begins with a few training-camp losses.

The fewer, the better.

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