Zack Baun expecting to make a bigger impact in 2021 after changing positions

The Saints traded up in the third round to take linebacker Zack Baun in 2020. Despite no on-field work last offseason, the team shifted Baun to an off-ball role after he spent his senior season at Wisconsin as an edge rusher.

The Saints again are moving Baun, putting him at weakside linebacker this season.

“Certainly there were some things that he was able to do last year that gave us confidence he was ready to take the next step,” Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen said, via Sam Shannon of the team website. “Zack really got hurt last year with the hamstring in training camp, and we all knew there was going to be a development [curve] from him in terms of being an off-the-ball linebacker and last year we kind of played him at SAM and MIKE off the ball. Well, he lost a week or 10 days of opportunities in terms of reps with an injury last year. That development was slowed, and once you get into the regular season, it’s hard to find all those reps to continue to develop guys. Where you saw him have success was as an off-the-ball linebacker at SAM, what he had done in college. But the things that we ask the middle linebacker to do in terms of responsibility and the things we ask the SAM linebacker to do in terms of responsibility are very similar.”

Baun played 15 games, with three starts, but saw only 82 snaps on defense as a rookie. Instead, he made his mark as a core special teams player.

This season, Baun is looking to play more and leave a bigger mark than he did as a rookie when he made 12 tackles.

“I’d say the difference between this year and last year is I’m just way more comfortable,” Baun said during the team’s minicamp. “Comfortable with the playbook. Comfortable. I know everybody. I know all the coaches. I know I’m just coming into this season way more comfortable and way more confident.”

Baun said he has made so much progress this offseason that he’s “excited to see where I go.”