Finding talent in small places has become a trademark of the New Orleans Saints during the Sean Payton era. Everybody knows what to expect from the starters, so which reserves and unknowns have the best chance to step up and make an impact?
Offense – Nick Toon
When other teams take a wide receiver later in the draft, it is purely for the potential. If the New Orleans Saints do it, people should pay close attention. Having lost Robert Meachem and Devery Henderson the Who Dat club was in need of some fresh blood for Drew Brees. Their selection was Nick Toon in the 4th round of the draft out of Wisconsin. While not the fastest player on the field, his impressive size, route running and ability to play the ball make him exactly what the Saints like in their passing offense. His willingness to put effort in run blocking is also a major plus. With Sean Payton back in the fold it shouldn’t take long for Toon to showcase his ability.
Defense – John Jenkins
New defensive coordinator Rob Ryan wants to install his 3-4 defensive scheme, and the Saints welcome it because it can’t be any worse than the unit they fielded in 2012. A big part of the 3-4 is have a great nose tackle who can stuff the run. That is what New Orleans picked up when they drafted John Jenkins out of Georgia in the 3rd round. What he lacks in quickness he makes up for in size (6’4″, 346 lbs) and strength. He isn’t terrible in the pass rush though his narrow lower body makes him somewhat limited in that department. Not that it matters. Ryan will need him in the middle of the Saint defense where he can eat up double teams, freeing up the pass rushers to go after the quarterback. Jenkins should thrive at this job pretty early on.
Special Teams – Travaris Cadet
Having Drew Brees on offense and Darren Sproles returning punts, it’s easy to overlook how good of a year returning kicks Travaris Cadet had in 2012. In 26 returns he piled up 690 yards at a solid 26.5 yards per return. That makes for excellent average field position for an offensive that is already one of the best in the NFL. Though he didn’t score a touchdown Cadet will prove crucial in the efforts of Sean Payton to get the New Orleans Saints going early. Nothing does that faster than a big return. Cadet probably won’t see any action at running back with so much talent ahead of him on the depth chart, so if he wants to see the field at all it will be through work on special teams.