Hau’oli Kikaha continues to impress for the Saints defense
By John Hendrix
Just four games into the season, it appears the New Orleans Saints scouting department has hit a real home run with rookie Hau’oli Kikaha. The No. 44 overall pick out of Washington has certainly turned heads through just several weeks of play, and is on pace to develop into something really special for the Saints defensive unit.
My colleague, Andrew Schuster, hinted towards the end of June that Kikaha could find himself starting with the Junior Galette fiasco and uncertainty with players like Anthony Spencer and Parys Haralson. Kikaha has only embraced the opportunity, learning as much as he could while making the transition to the pros.
Playing with the best
According to Pro Football Focus signature stats, Kikaha is among the head of the class right now out of all the league’s 4-3 outside linebackers.
Pro Football Focus Signature Stats: Pass Rushing Productivity for 4-3 OLB’s
Rob Ryan is utilizing Kikaha in a way that caters to his strengths. He’s currently the second highest graded Saints defensive player at +5.1, only behind Cam Jordan’s +8.6. Here’s a comparison of their output through four weeks of play.
Film tells all
It’s not the first time that Kikaha has found success this season, as his track record has shown a knack for being in the right place. One observation is that he doesn’t quit, and simply keeps his head up. You’ll notice that during some of these plays.
Sean Payton acknowledged that Kikaha is certainly becoming someone who is repeatedly stepping up.
"“I do think there are elements to the game with regards to just formations and getting aligned that have slowed down some and helped him to play faster. In college he was primarily a rusher. With us we feel like that’s his strength, and at times there are exceptions. I think, really, it’s important for us to highlight the things that we think he does well, but I think that a lot of these younger players are benefiting from the time on task.”"
Kikaha is one of many rookies being asked to fill in immediately and make an impact, and he’s certainly doing just that. You only look forward to seeing Kikaha continue to improve and build upon what he’s already been doing for the past several months. Our affiliates at NFL Spin Zone went as far as saying that Kikaha is a top rookie linebacker.