The New Orleans Saints’ struggles up front weren’t lost on head coach Dennis Allen — he acknowledged the offensive line’s shortcomings in Week 1 against the Tennessee Titans, pointing to some second-half adjustments that helped keep the offense on schedule.
Allen pointed out that the coaches sent some chip blocks by tight ends and running backs breaking into their routes to help the tackles, particularly left tackle Trevor Penning. Penning allowed a couple of sacks and multiple quarterback pressures in his second career start, but Allen pushed back on the notion that the left tackle’s play is a major concern.Buy Saints Tickets
“From Trevor Penning? No, I’m not concerned. This guy’s going to be a good player,” Allen began. “You’ve got a young guy that’s playing against an extremely good front. So does he have to get better? Absolutely. Am I concerned? No. I think we just keep our head down and keep going to work, and we’ll keep getting better. We’ll make our evaluations when we get to the end of the season and see where we’re at. I think this kid’s going to be just fine.”
Penning’s 2023 debut wasn’t much different from what Saints fans saw from Terron Armstead a decade ago. Pushed into the starting lineup to replace the embattled Charles Brown, Armstead’s first sortie saw him give up a pair of sacks and several other pressures to veteran defensive end Greg Hardy. Penning was similarly outmatched against pro pass rushers Arden Key and Harold Landry III.
But the Saints learned a valuable lesson from that experience. Like Armstead, Penning is a generationally-gifted athlete coming out of a smaller school (Northern Iowa versus Arkansas Pine Bluff) who needs reps to clean up his footwork and nail down his pass protection techniques. Both left tackles had rare movement skills. The Saints practiced patience with Armstead as he got his legs under him and adjusted to NFL competition, and he rewarded them by playing well enough to earn multiple Pro Bowls.
It’s too soon to say Penning will find the same success, but this approach has worked before. As Allen said, the time to review and make changes comes at the end of year. For now all Penning needs to do is go to work each day and focus on improving his craft.