After starting the first five games of the 2023 season, Saints LT Trevor Penning has been benched, as Jeff Duncan of NOLA.com writes. Veteran James Hurst will man the blindside in New Orleans’ game against the Texans today.
Penning, the No. 19 overall pick of the 2022 draft, had his NFL debut delayed by nearly three months by a torn foot ligament, and he sustained a Lisfranc injury in Week 18 of the 2022 season that required multiple surgeries. All in all, Penning played in his just six games (one start) in his rookie campaign and saw a mere 58 snaps at left tackle.
To his credit, the Northern Iowa product has played every snap this season, but his performance has been a mixed bag at best. Out of the 62 offensive tackles who have played at least half of their team’s snaps in 2023, Penning ranks 47th, according to Pro Football Focus’ metrics. And while the offensive line as a whole had a good day in the Saints’ 34-0 victory over the Patriots last week, Penning earned a subpar 54.7 grade, the lowest mark among the club’s front five.
After allowing two sacks and six pressures in New Orleans’ Week 1 contest against Tennessee, Penning has allowed just one sack and eight pressures over the past four games. That improvement, however, was not enough for the coaching staff as it seeks to coax more out of an offense that presently ranks 25th in the league in yardage and 22nd in scoring.
Hurst started 16 games at LT in Penning’s absence in 2022 and has started each of the Saints’ first five games of the current season, including four at left guard and one at right guard. If Andrus Peat — who is dealing with a groin injury and who missed the New England game due to a concussion — is unable to suit up, offseason acquisition Max Garcia would fill in at LG.
Duncan characterizes Penning’s demotion as a surprise, and it is currently unclear when he will be reinserted into the lineup.