Battle No. 3: Pass Rusher
This is the position that EVERYONE will be eyeing. This is the position which will be drawing all the attention, and it is the position that is most important to the Saints potential revival as a defense. The loss of potential (yes, potential) edge rusher Hau’oli Kikaha was a pretty big blow to the Saints not because of the production he has shown, but because of the flashes he showed as the player he someday could be. The Saints desperately need that player, or one like him to play opposite Cameron Jordan.
The Saints have three potential candidates to win the starting spot opposite of Jordan through training camp, and it all begins against the Patriots. Kasim Edebali, Obum Gwacham, and Davis Tull are all vying for that spot, and they all have a legitimate case to make.
Kasim Edebali is the most proven of the group with 5.0 sacks to his name last year in limited snaps rushing the passer. It’s entirely reasonable to expect Edebali to be able to reach around eight sacks with more snaps, and with his quickness added to just a little bit better technique, he could potentially sniff ten (especially if the interior rush is better).
Davis Tull is an athletic marvel who has some really shocking speed, quickness, and a nasty spin move. His ability to get off the line of scrimmage and into the backfield has the potential to be special. However, he’s torn his labrum in back-to-back seasons, and both strength and durability are major question marks for him right now. Tull might have a great first step and some truly outstanding athleticism, but he’s also the only one of the three who’s never recorded an NFL sack.
Finally, Obum Gwacham is a ‘prototype’. Standing at 6-foot-5 and having added some serious bulk over the offseason, Gwacham has the look of a blue chip pass-rusher. And as a former wide receiver (for my Oregon State Beavers mind you), Gwacham has balance and agility that is unusual for the defensive end position. He also has an excellent first step, and his ability to get pressure in limited snaps last year reminds me of a certain former Saint who favored a beard (and belts). Gwacham has the tools, but the question is can he develop the skills necessary to maximize them.