Costa Mesa, Calif. – The much-anticipated debut of Marcus Davenport is at hand.
The rookie defensive end, the New Orleans Saints' first-round draft pick (No. 14 overall) this year, isn't expected to be on the field for the entirety of Saturday's preseason game against the Chargers at the StubHub Center in Carson.
But he will play, after having participated in joint practices against the Chargers on Wednesday and Thursday at Jack Hammett Sports Complex, and not having suffered any setbacks that would prevent him from playing in his first preseason game.
"Just trying to progress," Davenport said Thursday. "I feel myself getting better, knocking a lot of rust off.
"Right now it's getting back into the mentality, just thinking quick again and making sure my body is able to do it.
"I'm feeling pretty good, just still working through some things and continuing to stay on top of maintenance."
An injury sidelined Davenport for the first two preseason games and when he returned, there was the matter of easing him back in, initially with work on the side while his teammates practiced during training camp. But Coach Sean Payton said that Davenport would be available this week, and he practiced against the Chargers.
"These reps that he's getting are obviously real important, because he is behind," Payton said. "We'll have a chance to watch him again on tape. He's doing some good things and I think it's good that he's getting to see a few different schemes defensively, offensive schemes – different personnel as far as who he's going against. He's got a lot of catching up to do but fortunately, he's healthy now.
"The first thing you have to do is decide how many snaps he's going to get, what's the pitch count for that practice. And then, what situations do we want to see him in – maybe a little bit more pass-rush mode. So as he transitions back to 100 percent where he can get the normal amount of reps, you're focusing on the technique, you're focusing on all the individual work that he does – pass pro, pass rush.
"It's a transition back and that can only happen when he's healthy. He's cleared now, it's just getting him the snaps and all the nuances that go into playing in a three-point stance, playing over on the right side. He'll play in this game. We'll have a certain snap count for him."
Davenport said he's eager to play and looked prepared for his role against the Chargers.
"The running came easy," he said. "Conditioning – I've been conditioning for a while. But it's actually seeing the game that I have to get back to.
"I've been taking a lot of mental reps, so I could see it from outside. Now it's just actually going in there and reading keys, checking through keys and that kind of stuff. I feel like these past couple of days have helped me a lot, especially on that."
But there's no deception: Davenport is behind, and he's hoping to close the gap between himself and his teammates.
"A little bit (behind), a little bit, just because I see my teammates," he said. "I see my D-line getting better as the process goes along and I had to do it mentally. So now I just have to step up physically and catch up."