New Orleans Saints positional previews: Defensive Line

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Jun 2, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints defensive tackles David Onyemata (93) and defensive end Bobby Richardson (98) works with defensive coordinator Dennis Allen during organized team activities at the New Orleans Saints Training Facility. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 2, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints defensive tackles David Onyemata (93) and defensive end Bobby Richardson (98) works with defensive coordinator Dennis Allen during organized team activities at the New Orleans Saints Training Facility. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports /
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Jan 3, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan (94) celebrates his sack of Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) with New Orleans Saints defensive end Obum Gwacham (58) in the third quarter at the Georgia Dome. The Saints won 20-17. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 3, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan (94) celebrates his sack of Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) with New Orleans Saints defensive end Obum Gwacham (58) in the third quarter at the Georgia Dome. The Saints won 20-17. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports /

Defensive Ends

Cameron Jordan, 6th season

If there’s one player on the Saints defensive line that is sure to bring it each week, then it’s Cameron Jordan. Jordan was one of the lone bright spots for the team’s poor defense last season, and it showed. Jordan was the only Saints player to appear in the Pro Bowl after being tabbed as an alternate to New England’s Chandler Jones. Jordan looks to build upon his 10-sack season, and help turn the fortune around for the defense. Jordan did have offseason back surgery, but was back in full-team drills for OTAs.

Next: A breakdown of all 10 Cam Jordan sacks

Darryl Tapp, 11th season

No disrespect intended, but Roman Harper has a running mate for the ‘old man’ of the New Orleans Saints defense because of Darryl Tapp. Like Harper, Tapp was a 2006 draft pick, taken 20 picks after Harper. Tapp, who will turn 32 in September, played in 419 snaps for the Detroit Lions in 2015. He also played in all 16 games, finishing with 26 total tackles, 2.0 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles. The veteran is a strong run defender, and should compete for playing time for Dennis Allen’s squad.

Kasim Edebali, 3rd season

You might find this hard to believe, but Kasim Edebali has played in all 32 games for the New Orleans Saints after making the team as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2014. The German native appeared in nearly 34 percent (365) of the team’s defensive plays last season. What’s a little crazier is that Edebali finished as the Saints’ second-highest sack artist last season with 5.0 total sacks. The team has used Edebali at both defensive tackle and defensive end, although he’s technically listed as a linebacker. As John Sigler noted in his column over a month ago, Edebali is drawing some scary comparisons to Junior Galette (the good kind). Look for Edebali to use his natural athleticism, and expect his name to be mentioned a few times during the course of training camp.

Obum Gwacham, 2nd season

We have a wide belief that second-year player Obum Gwacham is ready to fill the need for the Saints. In 2015, Gwacham appeared in just 98 snaps for the defense in 9 games played, but managed 2.5 sacks and a fumble recovery in said appearances. At OTAs, Gwacham had some first-team snaps at defensive end. It’s very possible that that will continue during training camp. Dennis Allen’s unit must get production at edge rusher opposite of Cameron Jordan, and Gwacham is a prime suspect to get the job done. If you’re still not convinced, then take a look at these two sacks.

Bobby Richardson, 2nd season

Perhaps it’s just my own personal belief, but I feel that Bobby Richardson is the forgotten man in the mix at edge rusher. In a recent sophomore spotlight of the former Indiana Hoosier, we pointed out that Richardson missed some time at OTAs due to offseason hip surgery, but got back into the swing of things during minicamp. The reality is that Richardson carries the underdog label heading into 2016 again. It’s crazy to think that after he played in 15 games for the Saints, appearing in 593 defensive snaps (54.9 percent) and starting in 11 contests for the black and gold.

Davis Tull, 2nd season

There may not be a greater buzz for one returning player’s potential than that of Davis Tull. We recently profiled his outlook for 2016, which speaks about a very talented athlete that can wreak havoc on the opposing offense. After all, Tull mirrors his game from Green Bay’s Clay Matthews. He looks to be fully recovered from a shoulder injury that placed him on season-ending injured reserve last season, and we’re not the only ones who believe he could breakout this season. The opportunity is his for the taking.

Hau’oli Kikaha, 2nd season

Unfortunately, there’s not much to be said about Hau’oli Kikaha due to his apparent season-ending ACL injury. It’s unfortunate that it happened, as Kikaha was expected to move from strong side linebacker to an edge rusher. However, that being said – we still haven’t seen a corresponding move to place Kikaha on injured reserve. At this point, I’d fully expect him to start the season on the physically unable to perform list, or PUP. Even if that happens, the Saints can’t bank on any type of production for the second-year star.

D.J. Pettway, Rookie

Alabama’s D.J. Pettway is underrated and unheralded, as contributor John Sigler wrote in his column two months ago. The Saints were able to bring on three undrafted rookie free agents on the defensive line last year, so the odds could very well tip in Pettway’s favor. However, he’s going to have to rely on what made him successful for the Crimson Tide defense to push the envelope for starting contention. He’s a true dark horse for the final 53-man roster.

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