New Orleans Saints Defense Will Be Fine Without Jadeveon Clowney

New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton has expressed to the media how hard his front office worked to acquire Jadeveon Clowney, but the Saints actually don’t need Clowney in order to achieve their 2020 ambitions. Regardless, New Orleans failed to sign Clowney, but Saints fans should not worry. Clowney would have been the cherry on top of the New Orleans Saints defense. He could have been a difference maker for the Saints and he is capable of making a big play out of nothing, but too often Clowney has not seemed motivated enough to play at that elite level for a full 16-game slate. 

New Orleans Saints Defense Will Be Fine Without Jadeveon Clowney

Signing With the Titans

Clowney recently signed a one-year deal with the Tennessee Titans and he will probably play well with the Titans. They are a team that desperately needed his services and were willing to pay the price on a one-year deal to fill their need of a pass-rusher. But pass-rushing has not been Clowney’s best skill throughout his NFL career. He is an elite run defender, with explosive ability and a strong bull-rush, but he has never hit double-digit sacks in a year.

Saints Defense

However, this isn’t a negative article about Clowney. It’s possible he breaks that barrier this season and records 10+ sacks. This is an article praising the current Saints defense. Their defense is already stacked full of talent and improved over the 2020 off-season even though they were unable to add Clowney.

The evolution of the Saints defense under coordinator Dennis Allen goes quietly underappreciated. The defensive side of the ball has been downright embarrassing for the Saints in the past. Yet, in 2020 the Saints defense is expected to be at least middle of the pack, if not top-10. Such has been the performance of Allen and his players the past three seasons. 

They are deep at every position, including along the defensive line, where Clowney would not have been the best player on the roster. Cameron Jordan, with a few more productive seasons, will catapult himself into genuine Hall of Fame discussion. Already second in franchise sacks all-time, Jordan enjoyed a career-high 15.5 sacks in 2019. Another three years of double-digit sack production, and it might be hard to deny him a gold jacket.

Alongside Jordan, lining up inside, will be former first-round picks Sheldon Rankins, Malcom Brown (former New England Patriots first-rounder) and rising star David Onyemata. Onyemata returns to the Saints line playing under a new three-year $27 million contract, while Rankins underwent off-season surgery to heal a nagging injury in his Achilles. The Saints defensive line production should only improve in the run game with Onyemata and Brown building on another year of chemistry together. And a healthy Rankins will provide consistent interior rush on passing downs. 

Questions Marks

The big question mark is the availability of another former first-round pick, defensive end Marcus Davenport. Like Rankins, Davenport has finished each of the last two seasons on the Injury List. If he’s fully healthy and finds some consistency to go along with the flashes he showed his first two years in the league, he will be the fundamental reason the Saints don’t need Jadeveon Clowney. Davenport will provide the extra pass rush New Orleans thought Clowney could have added opposite Jordan. 

Davenport was selected for the potential Saints scouts saw in him during the 2018 draft process. They gave up an additional first-round pick to trade up and select him that year. He has the athletic ability the scouts raved about at the time but he was raw. This is the year he has to pay his dues to the team and earn his keep in New Orleans. 

Defensive Line Depth

Outside of the big names, the New Orleans Saints defense has some depth along the defensive line. Carl Granderson, Trey Hendrickson and Shy Tuttle all provide solid depth along the line. All three offered good production last season, but fit better as role players. A highlight of the 2019 campaign was the 6’3″, 300 pound Tuttle rumbling, stumbling and then owning Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan with a vicious stiff-arm after the big man intercepted a Ryan dump-off attempt in the Thanksgiving finale last season.

Pursuit of Clowney

Perhaps the pursuit of Clowney was due to the fresh memory of Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook galloping through the Saints line in January, which is just the latest heartbreaking playoff loss the Saints have endured. However, looking back at the game, the Saints run defense recovered well after a tough opening half. In the second half they held Cook to just 3.4 yards per rush over the entire game. And that was without Rankins and Davenport. 

Last Word

Fully healthy, this Saints do not need Clowney. The team boasts a Pro Bowler at every level of its defense. They have the quality and depth to maintain their position as a top half of the league defense. They remain solid at linebacker with Demario Davis as the leader of the unit, joined by another veteran on the back-end, in Malcolm Jenkins. Jenkins returns to New Orleans just one season removed from a Pro-Bowl campaign with the Philadelphia Eagles

Adding Jadeveon Clowney to the New Orleans Saints defense would have been a great signing but he would have ultimately been a luxury addition to the Saints roster. However, the Saints remain one of the deepest rosters in the league as they gear up to try to win the Super Bowl in Tampa Bay this season. 

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