Kasim Edebali is Winning in His Own Way
Attention is rightly paid to the players with the biggest reputations – the high draft picks and expensive free agents. But NFL teams take all kinds to build their rosters. In this series, I’ll be studying players who are primed to break out for the New Orleans Saints.
Kasim Edebali is one of a couple of Saints players who hails from outside the United States. A native of Germany, Edebali found a spot on Boston College’s football team after participating in a foreign student exchange program in high school. The high school quarterback initially played both ways as a tight end and defensive end, but Boston College’s staff saw his potential as a pass-rusher and decided to keep him there.
Edebali comes from a family of athletes, though he’s the first to play football. His mother’s family has a history of excellence in gymnastics, and practicing it from a young age has helped give Edebali an edge few pass-rushers enjoy, and many covet: flexibility. The 253-pounder can do a standing backflip on-command, demonstrating that physical gift.
The most-successful NFL pass-rushers are able to bend around the edge, basically sprinting in a semicircle at a controlled 12-mile-per-hour burst at 250-plus pounds. While doing that they have to ward off a block from an offensive lineman who outweighs them by about 50-pounds or more.
In order to pull this off and effectively get after the quarterback, pass-rushers like Edebali need flexibility at the ankles, hips, and shoulders to bend underneath the lineman’s outstretched arms while turning the corner.
If a pass-rusher can’t bend like that, they risk losing momentum and can easily be taken out of the play.
Fortunately for Edebali, that’s not a problem. His impressive flexibility was on display every time he stepped on the field last year, and was a big reason he picked up the second-most sacks on the team (5).
Combine that with a fast first step and some tutelage from some experts in pass-rushing like the Saints’ elite left tackle, Terron Armstead, and then-sane former standout Junior Galette, and you get a highly-productive player.
What’s very interesting is that Edebali is taking the same path to success that Galette enjoyed before very publicly losing his damn mind. Both pass-rushers were undrafted and possibly undersized coming out of college, and have seen their snap counts and production rise on a yearly basis in New Orleans. Let’s compare them:
- Galette posted four and a half sacks and two tackles for loss on 20-percent of the team’s defensive snaps.
- Edebali logged two sacks and two tackles for loss on 17-percent of snaps.
- Galette put up five sacks and six tackles for loss on 34-percent of snaps.
- Edebali almost matched that with five sacks and four tackles for loss on 26-percent of snaps.
- Galette broke out with 12 sacks and 14 tackles for loss on 85-percent of snaps as a starter.
- Edebali, in his third year, is expected to split action with second-year talent Hau’oli Kikaha.
So what we can take away from that? Edebali shouldn’t be starting in 2016, but his arrow is clearly trending up. Turning 27-years old this August, Edebali is one of a number of players who are forming a strong core of mid-level talent on the Saints’ roster.
That’s not to rib on Edebali; not every player is Hall of Fame-worthy or going to lead the NFL in sacks every year. In order to win in the NFL, the Saints need players like him for depth to hold up against the game’s elite teams.
So now he’s in a new position. He’ll still play at the wide-nine technique “Jack” linebacker, which could also be called a weakside defensive end. Edebali will probably figure into the rotation with second-year starter Hau’oli Kikaha, but interestingly Edebali is the old man of the group.
Besides Kikaha, the group of edge rushers who will play opposite Pro Bowl strongside end Cameron Jordan are second-year players Davis Tull (24-years old) and Obum Gwacham (25), as well as an undrafted rookie from Alabama, D.J. Pettway (23).
Edebali is a core player for the Saints as a rotational pass-rusher and a starter on the special teams units. He played in 70-percent of special teams snaps last year covering punts and kickoff returns, the second-highest mark on the team. Kasim Edebali is valuable, talented, and young (he’s only 26, just entering the prime of his career) and should have another productive year in New Orleans.