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New Orleans Saints rookies are ready for their regular-season debut

'I deserve to be here'

Marcus Davenport admits that he was a bit unsure.

Even as the New Orleans Saints' first-round draft pick – a pick that New Orleans made a trade to secure, swapping places with Green Bay (No. 27 to 14) and tossing in a fifth-rounder this year and a first-rounder in 2019 – there was the matter of finding his footing in the NFL after standing out at Texas-San Antonio.

"It was, 'Do I belong?' More or less, 'Do I deserve this?' " Davenport said.

Yes, it appears he does, on both counts. And entering Sunday's regular-season opener against Tampa Bay in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, Davenport begins what he hopes to be a productive career as a Saint.

"My coaches, my teammates have really helped me with that and even then, after I got over that, it was more of playing to my game still," he said.

He provided a taste of it during two preseason games, after missing the first two while recovering from an injury.

In his debut against the Chargers, Davenport collected a half-sack, displayed the ability to speed rush and bull rush, and showed an uncommon athleticism for a 6-foot-5, 265-pounder when he corralled a receiver on an end around and tackled him after a 4-yard gain.

Davenport said that his preseason experience taught him at least two things.

"That I still have a lot of improvement left, and that I deserve to be here," he said. "I just have to keep on improving."

The same applies for rookie receiver Tre'Quan Smith. Smith will be the most heavily used rookie on offense for the Saints in the season opener.

"I'm definitely ready," Smith said. "Basically, this is what I've been waiting for. You want to get out there and start the regular season. Preseason was meant for you to get all the jitters out. All my jitters are out and I'm just prepared to play on Sunday."

Like Davenport, prepared to show how much he belongs.

Marcus Davenport

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