Saints linebacker Hau’oli Kikaha one of NFL’s top ‘up-and-coming’ pass rushers?

Sep 13, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; New Orleans Saints linebacker Hau
Sep 13, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; New Orleans Saints linebacker Hau /

Hau’oli Kikaha was named one of the top ‘up-and-coming’ pass rushers in the NFL by Willie McGinest.

After being drafted in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft, linebacker Hau’oli Kikaha quickly stapled himself into the starting lineup for the New Orleans Saints after leading the NCAA in sacks his final year at the University of Washington.

Racking up 34 total tackles, four sacks and three forced fumbles in the first six games of his rookie season in the Big Easy, Hau’oli Kikaha was finding himself in early conversation for Defensive Rookie of the Year.

However, his production took a bit of a decline due to what appeared to be the side effects of a sprained ankle he suffered in Week 8, and his snap counts decreased for the remainder of the season.

But it’s his production when he WAS healthy and on the field that was so intriguing.  At times, Kikaha looked like the best the Saints’ defense had to offer in the pass-rushing department.

He’s a high-motored, passionate, resilient individual — ideal characteristics for a guy who looks to make a career out of being a quarterback’s nightmare.  Using a variety of pass rush moves highlighted by his quick hands (former Judo champion), Hau’oli Kikaha looks to make his presence felt for a long time in the NFL.

Three-time Super Bowl champion outside linebacker Willie McGinest, who is now retired and a member of the New England Patriots Hall of Fame, believes Kikaha is one of the top up-and-coming pass rushers in the league.  In fact, he sits No. 2 on the list behind Oakland Raiders linebacker Khalil Mack and in front of Dallas Cowboys defensive end Randy Gregory.

“He (Kikaha) has a motor, he never stops rushing, he has a knack for getting after the quarterback,” McGinest said on NFL Network’s NFL Now program. “Playing in the trenches, he may have to gain a little weight, but as far as being a one-dimensional pass rusher, he’s a third-down guy that you’re going to have to slide protection. You can’t block him one-on-one. He’s one of the best up-and-coming players.”

With the free agency period less than a month away and the 2016 NFL Draft just around the corner, the New Orleans Saints will likely be targeting an additional pass rusher or two to bring in and assist Hau’oli Kikaha, Cam Jordan and company at getting after opposing quarterbacks.

After back-to-back disappointing seasons on the defensive side of the ball, the Saints are hoping for a turnaround.  With a handful of emerging young players, including Kikaha, the team seems to have a new foundation to build around.