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New Orleans Saints' new additions excited about offensive, defensive outlook

Fullbacks Adam Prentice, Zander Horvath envision higher usage

Two new Saints and one returnee addressed local media bubbling with enthusiasm Thursday, two of them for the exact same reason.

Free agent fullbacks Adam Prenticeand Zander Horvathboth are giddy at the possibility of increased usage under new offensive coordinator Klint Kubiak, who joined the Saints after a Super Bowl-run season as the passing game coordinator for San Francisco, a team for which Kyle Juszczyk was a first-team All-Pro in 2023, which also ran to eight the consecutive seasons he has been named to the Pro Bowl.

And free agent linebacker Willie Gayforesees an opportunity in New Orleans to showcase the skills that he wasn't always to spotlight even as he was helping Kansas City win back-to-back Super Bowls in 2022-23.

"I've watched a few guys play in that system as I've been in the league, and before I came into the league," said Prentice, who played his first three years with the Saints and agreed to terms on a one-year contract. "That's a fullback's dream. They use them so much. It's something where I'm very excited to get back and start learning, and absorbing as much as I can.

"This (San Francisco) offense is catching fire here in the last few years and a lot of teams are adopting it, and that's because it's been really productive. I think that's a testament to the fullback position and that's something that us fullbacks in the league are trying to keep alive."

Prentice has nine carries for 26 yards and eight catches for 37 yards and a touchdown in his first three seasons. Horvath, who wasn't on an active roster last year, played 15 games with the Chargers in 2022 and ran for eight yards on four carries, with five catches for eight yards and two touchdowns.

In seven seasons with the 49ers, Juszczyk has 165 catches for 1,695 yards and 11 touchdowns, plus 55 carries for 186 yards and four touchdowns.

"I would say (receiving is) a great trait of mine," Horvath said. "In college (at Purdue) I played running back my whole career, in high school and everything, so I'm used to catching the ball, running and coming out of the backfield. Having the ability to incorporate that into my skill set when I'm on the field can, I think, help the team.

"The defense when they're out there, they usually expect just running the ball somewhere up the middle when the fullback is in, so with an offense that will have someone that can be utilized in different ways like that I think is going to benefit the team. I'm just excited to have a different role, something similar to that where I can do more than just block."

Both agreed that it's further proof of the value that New Orleans has placed on fullbacks, a role some NFL teams do not fill.

"A lot of it is – it definitely has to do with the skill set – but being able to find a team that actually is going to utilize you in a variety of different ways can keep you there long term, whether it's just getting in on special teams or maybe for a few plays," Horvath said. "If you're a positive on the field and they're able to utilize you, they can keep you there long term. So I'm excited for this opportunity, it's a great team that uses the fullback. And the way they use them is different than other teams, so I'm excited about it."

For Gay, joining the Saints after spending his first four seasons in Kansas City isn't daunting because New Orleans carries a familial feel.

First, Gay is from Starkville, Miss., and played collegiately at Mississippi State. Second, several former Chiefs – safety Tyrann Mathieu, defensive tackle Khalen Saunders, defensive lineman Tanoh Kpassagnon – are on the roster, and former Mississippi State teammate Johnathan Abram, a safety, is an unrestricted free agent who was with the Saints last season. New Orleans' defensive line coach, Todd Grantham, was assistant head coach/linebackers coach at Mississippi State in 2017, Gay's first season there.

"The defense always looks good," Gay said. "Then, you've got my guy Todd Grantham over there, Tyrann Mathieu, Khalen Saunders, Jonathan Abram – my college teammate, T.K. (Tanoh Kpassagnon), he was there the with Chiefs with me my rookie year.

"So I've got guys that I've known over the past four years that's there, so they can tell me all the good things about the city, about the team. That really played a big role, having people over there that knew me already, that could vouch for me if need be. So I'm looking forward to getting over there with those guys."

While Prentice and Horvath figure to serve as their own main competition, Gay joins a position that already has returning starters Demario Davis, another Mississippi native, and Pete Werner.

"They have two great linebackers right now," Gay said. "Pete going into year four, he's been playing amazing. I've been watching Pete since we both were young bucks. And of course Demario, a Mississippi guy – Brandon, Mississippi – I've been watching Demario since eighth grade.

"Just to be able to be on the field with those guys whenever – I know I've got to earn my stripes, whatever position that may be, however many reps there may be – I just want to go out there and work for it. But I'm excited for the opportunity to even just have a chance, to be on the team with a great defense, a great defensive scheme like this one.

"Honestly, there's nothing on the field I can't do. I'm not a perfect player – I'd never say that. But when I'm out there, I feel like I'm the fastest out there, I can cover, I can tackle. Do I make all of them? No. Am I going to make every interception? No. Am I going to make every play? No.

"But you've got a guy who's going to go 110 (percent) every play, give it his all, whether it's blitz or in coverage. I feel like I can do it all. To be here and have an opportunity to showcase that is something I'm definitely looking forward to."

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