Hau’oli Kikaha Displays His Value to the New Orleans Saints


May 28, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints rookie linebacker Hau

The traditionally potent New Orleans Saints offense went from No. 4 in the NFL in 2013 to No. 1 in 2014. Yet in 2013, they went to the playoffs at 11-5 and missed the playoffs at 7-9 in 2014. The defense being ranked No. 31 in the NFL in 2014 just might have had a little something to do with that.

So the Saints made some trades and cuts so they can re-make their defense for 2015. The picked up cornerback Brandon Brandon in free agency and in their second pick in the first round, they picked Stephone Anthony to replace the departed Curtis Lofton. And with the second-round pick, they selcted Hau’oli Kikaha to come off the edge.

I thought the 6’3″, 246-pounder should have been taken in the first round as he just led the NCAA in sacks. But he’d be small for a 4-3 defensive end in the NFL and he didn’t have the experience in coverage for a 3-4 outside linebacker. So the Saints took him in Round 2 and in their offseason program, Kikaha isn’t having problems with his new role.

He told the New Orleans Advocates’s Joel E. Erickson, “It’s half and half. “So a lot more coverage responsibility, but same deal. Sit on the edge and rush the passer.” Let’s keep it 100, the pass rushing aspect of Kikaha’s game is what translates well to the next level and why they picked him.

The Saints needs someone to help edge-rusher Junior Galette put that heat on opposing quarterbacks. But at the same time, his adjustment to pass coverage has been going smoothly as well. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has kept more than an eye on Kikaha and sees it coming along for him.

Ryan said, “Love the quickness, the passion, the way he plays the game,” defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said. “He’s really done a good job working with (Saints linebackers coach) Joe Vitt on getting his zone drops and things like that, something that he hasn’t had a lot of experience doing. He’s come a long way in just the few days that we’ve had him.”

Kikaha, who knew the switch to outside linebacker was coming because of his size, said, “When you’ve got an opportunity to grow and show what you can contribute to the team, you’ve got to work at that part of the game to make it another strength. That way, you’re worth more. Your value increases.”

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