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As the pads go on for the fifth time at New Orleans Saints training camp, it’s time to get back to the trenches. While positions like wide receiver and cornerback have stolen the show recently, the offensive and defensive lines have been getting a lot of work in and are improving as well. Here are three players on the interior that we’ll be watching throughout Friday’s Saints camp practice:
RG Cesar Ruiz
One of the biggest offseason questions this year has centered around the development of Ruiz. The 2020 first-round selection is finally getting a full offseason at the position he intends to play throughout the season. Head coach Dennis Allen and players on both the offensive and defensive lines have complimented Ruiz’s growth.
Padded practices are the shining opportunity for guys like Ruiz to show their growth. In 2020, his rookie season, he was credited with a blown block in passing reps 2.5% of the time. Not great. He improved a little on that number in 2021, but steps forward this offseason will be key to his outlook.
Street brings a different brand of interior defensive lineman than we’re accustomed to seeing in New Orleans. His athleticism and quickness is a little different than the usual power pass rushers that the Saints usually value. His abilities jump off the field when he makes a great move, changes direction quickly, or shifts gears into a power approach to get through a blocker. He’s been a fun watch thus far, another day in pads should provide some insight on his consistency.
Onyemata has been able to show the ability to be one the best defensive tackles in the NFL, but that maybe that’s been forgotten around the league. The University of Manitoba product missed the first six games of the 2021 season with a suspension and thus had some rust to knock off as he returned. Despite all of that, Onyemata would piled on more pressures (32) than the rest of the defensive tackle room combined (30).
This offseason presents the opportunity for him to shoot out of a cannon as the season begins and reclaim his status as a top interior defender. His run-stuffing ability and excellent burst in pass rush are vital to the success of the Saints defensive line. It all starts coming together during training camp.