Why Sheldon Rankins and Marcus Davenport are among the most important players for next season

So much of the Saints' success hinges on the defensive line staying healthy.

Other positions look a little thin on depth, but injuries at linebacker and cornerback will hit differently if New Orleans can keep the front upright. The carnage created during the San Francisco game last season showed just how bleak things could get.

So, here's the quandary: The Saints are betting on some injury-prone players and can't afford a repeat of last season. In some respects, Marcus Davenport and Sheldon Rankins are among the most important players heading into the season.

Before that 49ers game, New Orleans owned one of the best pass rushes in the league. The Saints' sack rate put them in the top three, but there was a clear before and after the 49ers' game. Before that date, New Orleans created pressure on 29.3 percent of the passing plays it faced, which ranked 7th in the NFL. After that game, the Saints fell to 25th overall.

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