The New Orleans Saints secured a second preseason victory during their week three matchup against the New York Jets with a score of 28-13. Typically perceived as the regular season showcase by most franchises, the Saints put the first team on the field for a dry run leading up to week one of the regular season.
There have been plenty of surprises and letdowns through the course of the preseason. Here are the studs and duds from the New Orleans Saints’ 2019 preseason.
Marcus Davenport | Defensive End
The New Orleans Saints made an eye-popping investment during the 2018 NFL Draft to select Davenport, a defensive end from the University of Texas at San Antonio. Aa a raw prospect with an extremely high ceiling, New Orleans took a gamble and drafted the 6’7″, 265 lb defensive lineman to pair with All-Pro DE Cameron Jordan.
His rookie campaign went fine. Despite a toe injury in the middle of the season, Davenport would play 13 games and register 15 stops in the run game along with 25 quarterback pressures including 5 sacks. Nothing eye-popping but a good foundation for a young rookie to build off.
So far through three preseason games, Davenport has been on the field for 59 snaps and is one of the lowest-rated players on the defense according to pff.com. While he is one of four Saints players with a sack this preseason his overall performance has left much to be desired. It is just preseason, but if this performance continues, the draft-day trade will be questioned even more.
Ken Crawley | Cornerback
Let’s start by saying that Crawley’s 2019 preseason has been okay, nothing amazing, nothing terrible, but okay. That’s why he’s not going to make the 53-man squad. Last season was horrendous for Crawley who was a liability in coverage and was part of the reason the Saints traded for former New York Giants CB Eli Apple.
Of the players who registered a PFF rating for coverage last season on the New Orleans Saints, Crawley was last. He surrendered 485 yards on just 30 completions as QBs completed 71.4% of their throws against him. Signal callers also saw an average NFL passer rating of 141.4 when challenging Crawley.
In what was a step back from his performance during the 2017 season, his struggles last year resembled his rookie campaign which saw similar struggles in coverage. Unfortunately, it seems Crawley will be pushed off the roster by other DBs on the roster. Apple, Marshon Lattimore, Patrick Robinson, and P.J. Williams figure to be locked in, which leaves minimal space for extra cornerbacks.
Keith Kirkwood | Wide Receiver
Another tragic story of too much depth. Kirkwood has seen minimal play this preseason due to some undisclosed injuries that the team has tried to ease him back. With a few undrafted receivers on the roster, letting him rest was a great idea at the beginning but have these younger guns already overtaken his spot?
Kirkwood was drafted in 2018 but would not play in his first game until week ten versus the Cincinnati Bengals. He would haul in 13 reception on 21 targets to a tune of 209 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns.
Kirkwood was always the odd man out though in the receiver rotation. Coming into the offseason, he was fourth at best with Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn Jr., and Tre’quan Smith ahead of him on the depth chart. However, with UDFAs like Emmanuel Butler, Cyril Grayson, Lil’Jordan Humphrey, and others making a push, Kirkwood’s path to a roster spot might not be so clear.
So far the only real action we’ve seen from Kirkwood is a measly 18 snaps from week 3 against the Jets. With his return from injury, he should see some more playing time against the Dolphins this Thursday.
Kaden Elliss | Linebacker
When a team has five draft picks in a seven-round draft, the franchise needs some of the late-round picks to produce. Yes, it is preseason, but it looks as though the New Orleans Saints found a diamond in the round with its second seventh-round pick, Elliss, selected 244th overall.
Elliss has played in all three games and leads the team in snaps with 100. His PFF defensive rating is more than acceptable for a seventh-round pick. Elliss has also excelled in his tackling and pass rush rating, both of which are top-two for the Saints defense. He also leads the team in defensive stops with seven (tied with Darnell Sankey).
While the linebacker trio of Alex Anzalone, Demario Davis, and A.J. Klein is practically set in stone Elliss should be inline for some considerable backup reps throughout the season. During the Saints game against the Chargers, back-up LB Craig Robertson left with an undisclosed injury. There are reports he could miss significant time, but with Elliss excelling this preseason, the Saints should be able to plug a hole as quickly as it developed.
Taysom Hill | Quarterback
I’m going to be honest with you. I was not expecting this one. Taysom Hill has developed into a solid QB this preseason, and his performances in three games have been telling. Hill has the second-highest offensive rating on the New Orleans Saints according to PFF this preseason.
He has also outplayed fellow backup QB Teddy Bridgewater posting better stats in every category while having fewer dropbacks and pass attempts. Hill currently has 343 passing yards and 3 touchdowns while also recording a 103.6 NFL Passer Rating. Hill also has a 64.3 completion percentage compared to Bridgewater’s mark of 59.6%.
Hill has moved the ball down the field, facilitated the offense and grown more as a passer from last season while also being a dynamic force in the run game. He leads the Saints this preseason with 113 rushing yards producing 7 first downs. If Taysom can put everything together, he might have an inside track to the backup QB slot with his playmaking ability.
Emmanuel Butler | Wide Reciever
The preseason has been quite the rollercoaster for Butler. At the start, Butler was turning heads during practice making some jaw-dropping catches in team drills.
THE EMMANUEL BUTLER HYPE TRAIN CAN’T BE STOPPED pic.twitter.com/ztFpj2EssM
— AllSaintsConsidered.com (@AllSaintsBlog) July 29, 2019
With all the hype surrounding the undrafted free agent, many were excited to see his debut during the preseason games. Unfortunately, on July 30th Butler would go down with an undisclosed injury forcing him to sit out of practice. He would not return to full-team drills until the 10th of August in time for the New Orleans Saints second preseason game versus the Los Angeles Chargers.
He would struggle in his NFL debut after hauling in zero passes on three targets, including one drop. He would rebound versus the Jets catching four of his five targets for 27 yards and three first downs. Butler has had a strong preseason performance in practice. His bounce back in game 3 of the preseason has moved him one step closer to securing a roster spot. With a final matchup with the Miami Dolphins coming down the pipe, Butler will have one more opportunity to prove to the Saints coaching staff he deserves a chance.