A New Orleans Saints’ defense that could not afford any more bad news got more of it recently. Defensive tackle David Onyemata announced on social media Friday, July 16, that he will serve a multiple-game suspension after testing positive for a banned substance.
David Onyemata facing suspension for part of the 2021 NFL season
Onyemata posted on Instagram to say that he will be suspended for part of the 2021 NFL season but did not state how long he will be out. According to his statement, he does not appear to be protesting the decision.
While I was certainly surprised and disappointed with the news, I am responsible for what I put in my body. As I have never knowingly taken anything that could cause a positive test, we are currently in the process of testing the supplements I was taking at the time of the test. Regardless, I am committed to being more aware of any medication and dietary supplements that may contain substances banned by the NFL.
Onyemata was a huge part of the Saints’ defensive line last year. He had career-highs in sacks (6.5), tackles for loss (10), QB hits (16), and pressures (24). Onyemata’s suspension is yet another blow to a Saints’ defense that has seen significant departures this past offseason.
Onyemata’s suspension takes another key contributor out of the Saints’ front seven on defense
Only one player on the Saints’ defensive line played more snaps than Onyemata’s 599 last season. While Cameron Jordan remains part of the Saints’ defense, they have suffered some other major losses in 2021. The departures of Trey Hendrickson (558), Sheldon Rankins (415), and Malcom Brown (345) have seen the Saints lose 1,318 defensive snaps this offseason.
With them goes a significant amount of defensive production as well. Hendrickson led the team in sacks (13.5), tackles for loss (12), and pressures (33). Between Hendrickson leaving and Onyemata’s suspension, the Saints will start the season without two of their three most productive players on the defensive line. In Rankins, they also lose a player who tied for fifth in QB hits (9) and sixth in pressures (12).
Significant experience has also departed at linebacker this offseason
To add to the woes on the defensive line, the Saints are also facing major changes at linebacker. Demario Davis remains, but in Alex Anzalone and Kwon Alexander, they have lost 875 snaps at the linebacker position.
In a vacuum, the losses on the defensive line or the among their linebacker group would be of limited concern. However, with a total of seven players absent from those two groups, the pressure will be on for younger players to step up immediately.
Onyemata’s suspension heaps significant pressure on the likes of Shy Tuttle, Christian Ringo, and others to start Week 1. Combine that with the uncertainty over what Marcus Davenport and Payton Turner will bring off the edge and a potential rookie starter at linebacker in Pete Werner, and the Saints are going to have a lot to figure out on their defense in the coming weeks.
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Adam H. Beasley is PFN’s NFL Insider and Analyst. Follow him on Twitter @AdamHBeasley.