Payton Turner starts his second Saints training camp strong, with more work to do

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There aren’t many players on the New Orleans Saints practice field with more to prove than Payton Turner. Despite his status as a former first round draft pick (or maybe in spite of the backlash to that pick), Turner isn’t exactly a known quantity the team can rely on to replace Cameron Jordan or Marcus Davenport someday. Not yet.

But that can change with more solid practices like Turner’s performance on Wednesday. The 6-foot-6, 270 pounder was disruptive, earning credit for an Ian Book sack (working against backup left tackle Jerald Hawkins, a 7-year NFL veteran) and creating pressure on another rushed throw. That’s exactly what he needs to be doing at this stage of the preseason.

And it was enough to draw a compliment out of head coach Dennis Allen after practice, though he hesitated to say Turner was progressing over his rookie tape. There’s more work to do beyond this first practice session. Allen conceded earlier on Tuesday that, “Expectations for year two are higher than year one,” when discussing the status of second-year defenders like Turner and linebacker Pete Werner, as well as cornerback Paulson Adebo. For his part, Werner was inactive on Wednesday while managing a minor injury, which Allen downplayed. Veteran backups Kaden Elliss and Zack Baun filled in for Werner during team drills.

But look at Adebo refusing to quietly step aside so a rookie draft pick (Alontae Taylor, who caught Allen’s eye back in minicamps) can take his job. Adebo broke up a fastball from Jameis Winston to Kevin White, which helps to illustrate how intense this competition will be. Whether it’s Adebo or Taylor starting opposite Marshon Lattimore on Sundays, the Saints defense will have a young playmaker in that role.

Let’s see if Turner can keep up the pressure so he’s in the mix, too. It will take much more than some nice rushes against third-string tackles in July for him to work his way into the starting lineup. And odds are he still won’t be named a starter so long as both Jordan and Davenport are in town. But with Davenport entering a contract year and Jordan beginning his twelfth season in the NFL, at least one of those spots is likely to open up in the near future. If Turner stays at it, he’ll be positioned well to plug one of those holes on the roster when the time comes.