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New Orleans Saints right tackle Trevor Penning applying lessons learned from left tackle

'It was definitely a struggle, but I think I learned a lot. I think I'll be a better player in the end'


Trevor Penning will be bringing with him a few things from his time spent as left tackle.

Perhaps primarily, he'll maintain a prickly, "competitive" edge that generously can be characterized as the best kind of nasty, a play-to-the-whistle aggressiveness that opponents – probably including a handful of former and current New Orleans Saints defenders – sometimes don't much appreciate.

"Sure," Penning said Tuesday, with a smile. "That's the way I believe O-line is meant to be played. So that's not going to go away just because it's a new position coach, new you. That's what I pride myself in."

The Saints are hoping that and more will bode well for Penning as the 2022 first-round pick transitions from left to right tackle this season, in hopes of New Orleans getting its best five offensive linemen on the field as starters.

Penning's struggles his first two seasons are well documented – injuries and ineffectiveness combined to keep him off the field more than on it, with him playing 23 of a possible 34 games and starting six of the 23.

The coaching decision to flip his line sides was a sign that the Saints believe Penning can be productive partly due to having his slate wiped, a mantra echoed last week by Coach Dennis Allen and offensive line coach John Benton.

"It's a fresh start," Penning said. "It's a whole new offense, new side of the (offensive) line. Kind of flush the past, get away from the past, move on. That's kind of what I've gotten out of it.

"I definitely feel I needed a fresh start, for sure. Being able to switch sides, it's almost like everything is kind of different around here. A whole new staff, the staff is great. (Offensive coordinator Klint) Kubiak, he's bringing an exciting playbook and being able to run a great offense that San Francisco has been using, and I'm super excited for it."

Benton said Kubiak's offense is more suited to offensive linemen who are athletic and mobile.

"What we do is, we run off the ball and we try to beat defenders to spots on the field and stop pursuit, so we do a lot of things that are on the more athletic side of things as opposed to just finding out if we're just bigger and tougher, so to speak," Benton said.

And Penning said he's athletic enough, and capable enough of playing right tackle, to be able to accomplish what will be necessary.

His offseason preparation this year – the first time in the NFL that he has had a healthy offseason – involved working both tackle positions.

"(Switching sides) is not as much (a difference) as you would probably think, because the whole offseason we train on that," he said. "So I've already kind of been there already. We work on (both tackle positions), 50-50 pretty much. It's not too much of change.

"Just being a good athlete is going to help you a lot, to be able to make that switch. I think of myself as a pretty good athlete, I think I'll be able to make the switch just fine and keep working on improving my game."

Part of that will be incorporating what he learned even as he struggled.

"I learned a lot of stuff last year," Penning said. "It was definitely kind of a struggle, but I think I've learned a lot. I think I'll be a better player in the end.

"I went into the offseason, figured out the stuff I needed to work on. I actually had an offseason – being healthy for the first time in the offseason for a while. It was good to work on some things.

"I think it'll be great for not only me, but the rest of the O-linemen. We have a lot of athletes, so I think it's going to utilize our athleticism a lot more than the past. Being able to get the ball outside on the perimeter, just being able to run off the ball and attack the defense."

That part – the attacking – is something Penning can do, and eagerly will do.

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