New Orleans Saints rookie review: LT Trevor Penning

It’s been almost a year since they called his name on draft day, but it’s tough to get a read on what Trevor Penning brings to the New Orleans Saints. The former first-round draft pick began his rookie year with a torn ligament in one foot and ended it with a Lisfranc fracture in the other foot, limiting him to just six games and a single start to evaluate. That’s a really tough break for a player who needs reps to adjust to the NFL after dominating a lower level of competition in college.

But there were times when we saw what the Saints liked so much in Penning to pick him so highly in the 2023 draft. His tenacity as a blocker, his aggressive play style, and his rare blend of size and speed jumped out once he got on the field. We just need to see more from him in his second year with New Orleans. Let’s keep this series going and review his rookie year:

Snap counts

Penning’s injuries limited his availability in 2022, but he also didn’t get into the starting lineup until the regular season finale due to his inexperience. He totaled just 124 snaps on offense and 17 reps on special teams with the field goal kicking unit. Of his snaps with the Saints offense, all but 58 came as an extra blocker lining up tight to the formation. And those 58 snaps at left tackle were all but the final two plays in their Week 18 game with the Carolina Panthers.

Season stats

It’s hard to single out offensive linemen like other positions, but here’s what we’ve found on Penning. He was penalized twice on just 124 offensive snaps, which isn’t ideal. He was also charged with allowing two quarterback pressures on just 33 reps in pass protection, which frankly could’ve been much worse. He didn’t yield any sacks on limited looks. And he was perfect on 14 true pass sets at Pro Football Focus, which weeds out screen plays, spiked passes, and non-penalty snaps. Both of his penalties were charged on running plays.

Pro Football Focus grade

We knew Penning’s strength is on rushing downs, and that’s borne out with a run-blocking grade of 80.2. But his very poor pass blocking grade (38.7) drags his overall rating down to just 73.6, which is still well above average. He’s got the physical tools to help the Saints and develop into an asset at left tackle. He just needs to stay healthy long enough to refine his techniques and adjust to NFL-quality competition.

Season recap, future outlook

It’s hard to look at Penning’s rookie year as anything but a disappointment, but not much of it is his own fault. The Saints probably made the right call by continuing to start James Hurst over him at left tackle once he was healthy. And two unrelated foot injuries can’t be helped. New Orleans knew he’d face a learning curve as soon as they drafted him especially in pass protection. It’s a credit to their coaching staff that he was able to get on the field often as a run blocker and pave the way for some nice gains on the ground.

But he needs to start nearly every game in 2023 in order for fans to feel good about his progress. Even if he’s experiencing some speed bumps and “welcome to the NFL moments,” he needs to be on the field and learning as quickly as possible. Hopefully his body can hold up to that kind of expectation.

Season grade

You don’t want to be too hard on Penning’s grade given all of the adversity he dealt with in his rookie year. Again, two different injuries are really difficult to account for. And his strengths and weaknesses were about as expected. So we’ll take a middle-of-the-road path with Penning and give him a mulligan for the durability issues which weren’t a problem for him in college (where he started 33 consecutive games, only missing one matchup due to COVID-19 protocols in 2020). Maybe we’re being too generous, but we’re not about to apologize for being optimistic.

Grade: C

Story originally appeared on Saints Wire