New Orleans Saints: Sheldon Rankins could be secret weapon

With bad news for New Orleans Saints recently, the good news is that defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins could be on the verge of a breakout season.

The New Orleans Saints have had more lows than highs this offseason. That’s mostly due to the overwhelming number of injuries. Contrary to that, however, Sheldon Rankins is coming back from injury. His rookie year was riddled with ailments, resulting in a lack of playing time. But this year is different; Rankins is in a position to make an impact and break out for the Saints.

Looking back at last season, Rankins only played in nine games. In those game, he managed 20 combined tackles, four sacks, and a forced fumble. For only playing in nine games, those are pretty decent numbers and he showed his worth especially in their last game. With four tackles in that game alone, he was on fire.

As a first-round pick, though, expectations were a lot higher. With Rankins now healthy, the heat is on. Looking at that last game of the 2016 campaign, he was able to make plays and sack Winston before Winston was able to get the ball out of his hands. That’s going to be key next season as something the Saints defense lacked.

Another difference between last season and this season is the amount of talent on defense. The Saints drafted Marshon Lattimore, Marcus Williams, and Al-Quadin Muhammad to help bolster their lackluster defense. While each isn’t guaranteed a breakout year, they will help take some of the pressure off of Rankins.

Adding talent on offense will help keep the defense off the field, too. Even with such a high-ranking offense, the Saints added Ted Ginn Jr, Adrian Peterson, and Alvin Kamara, so that unit should occupy possession a great deal. Thus giving the defense a chance to catch their breath and formulate a plan of attack.

Unfortunately, the Saints also could lose Nick Fairley. With Fairley on injured reverse, Rankins has a chance to step up and fill in for him. He might not bring the veteran knowledge, but Rankins has a lot of potentials to make plays. Fairley’s presence can’t ever be replaced but with Rankins attitude, he can try to be an adequate substitute.

The main reason I predict a breakout for Rankins is how much pressure he’s putting on himself after last year. In an interview with The Advocate, Rankins talked about his goals for this season:

“I think when I came back I flashed a lot, but consistently I wasn’t as dominant as I felt like I wanted to be…So I think that’s my thing this year.”

Rankins wants to show the coaches and fans he deserves a starting spot, and the only way he’ll get it is by making plays — which he fully intends to do.

What the Saints originally imagined for Rankins didn’t happen last year. This year might be his year, though. As long as he’s healthy and consistent, there’s no reason to believe he won’t break out. Rankins could be the hidden gem on defense the Saints have been missing.

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