Saints defense to be challenged without Onyemata as bad luck continues

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Dennis Allen
Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen faces challenges with lost talent and suspensions in 2021 (Photo: Parker Waters).

To achieve the highest level of success in any enterprise, you have to be good.

To achieve the highest level of success in any enterprise, you have to be lucky.

To achieve the highest level of success in any enterprise, you have to be smart.

The New Orleans Saints have been good since 2017, sometimes very good.

The New Orleans Saints have not been lucky since 2017, witness the Minneapolis Miracle of Stefon Diggs, the NOLA No-Call of Nickell Robey-Coleman and the Poydras Push Off of Kyle Rudolph.

While the luck was bad in the playoffs, the Saints still had opportunities to overcome but could not.

There was certainly no luck with the deterioration of the health of Drew Brees over the last two seasons.

The New Orleans Saints have been smart during the same time frame, drafting well, making smart free agent signings and managing cap issues expertly.

Having been all in in 2020, the Saints fell short of winning a second Super Bowl and had to pare the roster in significant fashion, letting many key players depart grudgingly but by necessity.

Marshon Lattimore and David Onyemata are good, sometimes very good players.

Both have been lucky in the injury department, missing minimal time in their careers.

Neither has proven to be very smart in recent times and the Saints are now in a quandry, as a result.

Lattimore was arrested on a stolen gun charge in March in Cleveland. He faces potential discipline from the NFL, not yet known, which could cost him a game or two, though the hope is that it will not.

Onyemata’s revelation via Instagram that he has tested positive for a banned substance has resulted in a six-game suspension.

Onyemata was previously disciplined by the league, suspended for one game in 2019 for marijuana possession.

Onyemata is a key player in the grand scheme and the acute scheme of the Saints defense heading into 2021.

In his first three seasons, Onyemata played in all 48 games, starting 10.

Onyemata has become a consistently good player as a full-time starter in his last two seasons and he is coming off his best season, having started all 30 games he played in in 2019 and 2020.

In his fifth season in 2020, Onyemata recorded career bests of 44 tackles, 16 quarterback hits, 10 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, two passes defended and an interception.

With the loss of Sheldon Rankins and Malcom Brown to free agency, the defensive tackle position is already a bit thin and without the presence of Onyemata for any period of time, will be precariously thin.

The Saints invested in Onyemata, signing him to a three-year, $27 million deal in March of 2020 with $18 million guaranteed.

Without Onyemata, the experience at defensive tackle is lacking overall.

The Saints have third-year player Shy Tuttle and second-year player Malcolm Roach returning.

Tuttle is being counted on as a starter. Tuttle has played in 29 games, starting four in his previous two seasons with New Orleans. Tuttle has been in on 45 tackles, including two sacks with an interception.

Roach played in nine games as a rookie last season, recording 16 tackles.

Ryan Glasgow has four years of experience in the NFL, having played in 26 games for the Bengals and Saints (two games with New Orleans in 2020).

Albert Huggins has played in five league games in two seasons (2019-20) for the Eagles and Lions.

Second year player Jalen Dalton joins undrafted rookies Josiah Bronson and Lorenzo Neal, the son of the former Saints fullback of the same name have not played in an NFL game to complete the candidates for defensive tackle.

Of course, the possibility remains that Cam Jordan could slide inside and take snaps at tackle with the presence of Marcus Davenport, Payton Turner and Carl Granderson at the end spots.

While the Saints still have quality players and coaches and should be competitive for a playoff spot in 2021, a defense lacking Onyemata for a significant period of time will be challenged to be as good as it must be. If Lattimore misses time as well, that challenge becomes ominous.

Simply put, the Saints may be pretty good if not simply good but have not been lucky thus far in 2021 and must certainly become even smarter to fill the large gap vacated by a large man for a potentially large period of time.

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Ken Trahan


Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…

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