Marcus Davenport isn’t exactly fond of losing, but it helps knowing that the ends will justify the means.
So if the New Orleans Saints rookie defensive end’s training camp battle losses today against left tackle Terron Armstead will lead tomorrow to wins against opposing offensive tackles, well, Davenport will take the lumps and grow from them.
“At least if I’m going to lose, I’m going to lose to the best knowing that I tried,” Davenport said. “I’m just trying to get on a consistent basis where I can win.
“I just am trying to go against the best. I like going against Terron – even though I lose, and get thrown around, but hey, I’m working. I think that’s something that’s actually worth it, to lose. I know when I can beat him consistently, then I’m going to be ready.”
A healthy Armstead equals one of the best tackles in the league. Which means there may not be a better educational foundation to be had for Davenport, the No. 14 overall pick, for whom the Saints moved up in order to draft. New Orleans swapped the Nos. 27 and 147 picks in this year’s draft, and their first-rounder in 2019, to the Packers in order to move up.
“I like Marcus,” Armstead said. “I like him a lot. I like his attitude more than anything.
“(During) OTAs, he had some struggles. It was new to him, a lot of the speed in the NFL, but you can see the first day (of training camp) he came out with some improvements. He's strong and he's got some long arms.
“He’s got some tools to him and with reps, the more he's doing it, the more he's going to be able to learn more about the game, how to win and how to beat tackles on a consistent basis.”
But Davenport knows that process is ongoing.
“I can’t get too close, or they’re going to throw me down,” he said, after his first training camp practice in pads. “That was really the biggest thing.
“Extension, locking out, disengaging more violently, basically being quicker in my actions. That way, they don’t have a chance to recover and actually grab me.”
Davenport said training camp reminds him of his recent past.
“It’s frustrating, but it’s just like my freshman year in college,” he said. “I’ve got to learn again, and I’m trying to pick it up fast. I’m trying to double down and get better in a hurry.”
Not that he hasn’t had victories. There have been instances where he has turned the corner or bull-rushed effectively, and a time or two when his clear path to the quarterback would have resulted in a sack.
But he won’t let those individual wins go to his head, because another rep always awaits.
“It really doesn’t mean anything,” he said. “I’ve got to do it consistently and even after that, I got thrown to the ground. So I’ve still got to work on my hands and leverage.”
Still, Davenport, listed at a lean 6 feet 6, 265 pounds, is striding in the right direction.
Given the directive to increase his strength, he has, though he joked that you may not be able to tell by looking at his legs.
“I believe I’ve gotten stronger, I’ve gained a little weight,” he said. “Really, I’ve been trying to work out lower body. Sadly, it doesn’t show, but I’ve been trying to work out lower body, just strengthen my legs, strengthen the power through my legs. And with that, of course, you have to do some upper body. I think I’ve gotten stronger, also gotten bigger, maybe a little bit faster.”
A little bit more, every day, until the won-loss ledger balances more evenly and, possibly, begins to tilt toward the “win” side.
“Really, the eye-opening moment came when I actually did pretty decent,” Davenport said. “And I was like, ‘I can do this, I can get back into rhythm.’ I’ve just got to play faster and trust myself, trust the technique (defensive line) coach (Ryan) Nielsen has been teaching me."