Trevor Penning dubbed Saints’ biggest X-factor in 2023
The New Orleans Saints made a huge splash in the 2022 NFL Draft after taking both Chris Olave and Trevor Penning in the first round, sacrificing their first round pick in 2023 in doing so. While Olave has clearly worked out, the jury is still more than out on Penning.
No one expected him to start at left tackle last season, but an early injury really stunted his rookie season development window. He wasn’t able to reach 200 snaps played last season before going down with another injury, but he’s been participating at minicamp practices while finishing his recovery.
Pro Football Focus lists Penning as the X-Factor for the Saints success this season, with this reasoning:
He showed flashes of his natural aggressiveness, posting an 80.2 run-blocking grade. His 38.7 pass-blocking grade is ugly, but it rises to 56.2 if you discard an ugly first appearance against San Francisco. Penning has talent and could change the look of this offensive line if he holds up well in pass protection. He’ll have to compete with James Hurst (63.2 overall), but the opportunity is there for the taking.
Having Penning emerge as a starting-level left tackle would be massive for the team. At just 24 years old, finding a lock down left tackle for the foreseeable future helps the immediate team and for years to come.
He did go through some growing pains, which can be expected from any rookie, but overall I think looked solid in his first year without having as much time to train while healthy as most rookies. It’ll be exciting to see what he can do with a full offseason and preseason process. His run blocking was immediately impressive, but needs to grow as a pass blocker.
It would be smart to throw him into the lineup next year and see how he does before going back to James Hurst. Hurst is an okay depth piece that can be serviceable as a starter, but you know what he is at this point in his career. It’s time to see what Penning can do to help the team.
More 2023 season!
3 New Orleans Saints rookies make ESPN's top 100 draft picks list
Juwan Johnson has been studying a surprising WR to prepare for 2023
Bleacher Report grades 2023 Saints offseason with a B-plus