Derick E. Hingle- USA Today Sports, New Orleans Saints- OTA, 2014 May 29
New Orleans Saints’ Kevin Reddick is entering his second season with the team after playing his college ball at the University of North Carolina. The Black and Gold signed the former Tar Heel linebacker as an undrafted free agent following the 2013 NFL Draft. Reddick played all four years at UNC, where he was a dominant presence every time he stepped onto the field.
As a freshman in 2009, he played in every game, starting in the final seven and racking up 45 tackles. He started at middle linebacker and led an especially talented Chapel Hill defense with 74 tackles as a sophomore. He missed two games during his junior season with an ankle sprain, but still managed another 74 tackles, six of which went for a loss.
After a solid performance three years in a row, Reddick saw an expanded role as a senior. He still clocked in plenty of time at the middle, but was used more as an edge pass rusher, which ended up being an excellent decision by North Carolina’s coaching staff. Reddick ended his collegiate career with a bang after totaling 85 tackles (18.5 for loss) and 6.5 sacks and earning First-Team All-ACC honors and a trip to the Senior Bowl.
The fact that he went undrafted is a bit surprising to me, but he looks to have found his home in the Crescent City. Following his arrival to the Who Dat Nation, Reddick led the Saints’ special teams with 13 tackles and a forced fumble. His role should increase in 2014, where he’ll like see a hefty chunk of time at middle linebacker.
Curtis Lofton‘s job is in no danger, but the gig opposite of him remains vulnerable. I don’t want to be misunderstood — David Hawthorne is a commendable player to man the inside. However, a stronger training camp performance by Reddick could very well lead to a shift change at the middle.
The former UNC standout is an intelligent, hard-working force who could end up seeing a significant workload on Rob Ryan‘s defense. At 6-foot-1 and 246 pounds, he brings excellent size to his position. His height may work against him at times, but if you watch some of his highlight tapes, he still manages to show great vision to the ball and outstanding flexibility.
Reddick’s open field tackling ability is what really catches my attention. New Orleans allowed 111.6 yards per game on the ground last season, which was good for 19 overall in the league. Stopping the run should be the team’s main focus on that No. 4 overall defense at training camp, and maybe, just maybe Reddick could be that difference maker.
His versatility makes him an intriguing athlete in the national football league as both an inside linebacker and a pass rusher. Now that the opportunity lies in front of him, he could take his potential and run with it. Rob Ryan’s hybrid 3-4 system might just be the perfect fit for Kevin Reddick, so it will be interesting to see what Sean Payton and company have in store for the blooming talent.