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New Orleans Saints training camp is in full swing, so our staff at Saints Wire have made our picks for the trendy superlatives flying around the Twittersphere. We chose players who fit our interpretation of various categories like Breakout Guy, Comeback Kid, and Under the Radar, occasionally coming into agreement. It’s a fun exercise, but who would you pick? Compare to our selections:
Sigler: I'm going with third-year wideout Deonte Harris, who adds a fifth gear to the Saints offense that they otherwise don't enjoy. He increased his scrimmage yards last year exponentially (going from 55 to 237) and I think he's primed for another step, even if he missed a couple of games to suspension. Hudak: While this should be Tre'Quan Smith, Marquez Callaway has shown marked improvement in just one yar's time; his performance may prove paramount to the absence of Michael Thomas on this offense. Kistner: Maquez Callaway is my guy as well. The Saints will need someone to step up this season at the position and I like what I saw from him last season. This could be his year.
Sigler: I like Cesar Ruiz to get right after a disappointing rookie season, which saw him get pushed around and outmuscled by NFL-quality defensive tackles. He's had time to get stronger and better prepare for the rigors of playing right guard. Hudak: Initially drafted to play center, Cesar Ruiz has come out the gates much stronger in training camp versus last year’s season – he may stand to benefit most from a full offseason under the tutelage of Zach Strief. Kistner: Deonte Harris. Now, Harris didn’t have a bad 2020 season, but it was riddled with injury which saw his special teams production dip and only appeared in nine games as a wide receiver.
Sigler: C.J. Gardner-Johnson has drawn plenty of attention for his trash talk, but this feels like the year he starts to get praised for his strength of play. Look for him to become more of a defensive weapon and get moved around as he becomes more clearly the successor to Malcolm Jenkins at strong safety. Hudak: Deonte Harris has earned the hype as a training camp standout and top target for both respective quarterbacks. Will be a cornerstone of the offense post-impending suspension. Kistner: I’m going to go out on a limb and pick Jameis Winston here. I think he has the makeup to not just be good, but to be a “star” in this system.
Don't Forget About
Sigler: All of the additions at defensive end may have observers overlooking Carl Granderson, but he has the speed and flexibility to better replace Trey Hendrickson's unique athleticism than either Tanoh Kpassagnon or Payton Turner. He'll be a force in the fourth quarter. Hudak: The Saints have yet to fully develop a linebacker in this era through the draft; Zack Baun has seen first-team reps and appears slightly larger, likely as intended. That No. 2 linebacker role is firmly empty, and the heat is on Baun to perform with the addition of rookie Pete Werner. Kistner: Wil Lutz is the guy here for me. Yes, he is the kicker so some might be naturally inclined to forget about him by virtue. But, Lutz was nearly automatic in 2018 and 2019. However, 2020 proved to be his worst season professionally, and the team needs him back to what he was when he signed his extension.
Needs To Rebound
Sigler: Marcus Davenport's career arc went in the wrong direction in 2020, but I think he'll course-correct this year. He's invested a lot of time in his mental health and he knows what's at stake this season. Another disappointing year in New Orleans could be his last. Hudak: This one should go without saying – with the mass exodus along the defensive line, a perfect year for Marcus Davenport to finally hit his stride and perform at a high-level (for a full season) would painfully be this one. Kistner: Davenport for me too. He just has to be more. Period.
Sigler: We'll have a better idea of his game once the pads come on, but Jalen Dalton is a nice prospect at defensive tackle. With last season's top three players at that spot either off the roster or out of action (at least David Onyemata will be back by midseason), he has an opportunity to earn real minutes early in 2021. Hudak: There is still no answer or noted developments for the suspension of David Onyemata. Jalen Dalton has had a solid camp performance thus far with at least one sack – we’ll see if this early momentum ascends or falters. Kistner: I really like Jalen McCleskey’s chances here. He is fast, has a great attitude, and would fit in well for Harris if he does indeed face a suspension for his DUI. I think he sticks.
Under The Radar
Sigler: I threw a dart at the receivers depth chart and Jalen McCleskey snatched it out of midair. He's a smooth runner with confidence in his hands, which is a recipe for success in this league. He's also the only other athlete who can match Harris in stride streaking downfield. Hudak: Didn’t think I’d be writing that Ken Crawley has frankly outperformed at the outside cornerback role, but if he continues his play amongst starters through camp, he may actually serve as a keen backup on the depth chart. Kistner: I also like Crawley. As thin as the Saints are at the cornerback position, Crawley could make for competent depth, but he won’t be talked about too much.