The New Orleans Saints over the last few years haven’t been successful in addressing the obvious hole at the defensive end position opposite of Cam Jordan.
The Saints management attempted solutions via 2016 free agency. Unfortunately, that amounted to defensive end Paul Kruger. A cast off from the Cleveland Browns who turned in 25 total tackles, Kruger notched 1.5 sacks & a forced fumble in 15 games for New Orleans.
The Saints tried via the 2015 draft with the acquisition of Hau’oli Kikaha. The defensive end and 2nd round pick out Washington University, who amassed an amazing 19 sacks in his senior year. I thought surely Kikaha could help out. But naw, with injuries, switching him to linebacker with coverage duties & cycling of coordinators has failed thus far.
The theme seemed the same this year with New Orleans Saints coach Payton declaring “We need a pass rusher!”
He then proceeded to do something about it. The major defensive end names fell out of the 2017 free agency period because the better pass rushers resigned with their current teams. Others weren’t valued for the amount of money they commanded. The Saints stayed patient and landed a gem, some believe that would be the answer to the long-standing saints defensive end quagmire.
Enter Alex Okafor a 6-4 260 lb. DE/LB from the Arizona Cardinals. Okafor, over 4 years, has 13.5 sacks & 64 tackles. The Okafor’s contract is 1 yr. deal worth $2 mil. Basically a prove it deal similarly to Nick Fairley’s first saints contract . The pressure is on for Alex Okafor to perform at high level & remain healthy. Okafor even said via video interview on nola.com that “I feel like I can be that guy”. Okafor, according to Pro Football Focus, ranked fourth in pass rush productivity in 2016 at outside linebacker. He finished behind only Chargers Joey Bosa, Denver’s Von Miller & Oakland’s Khalil Mack. I would like to add that is pretty damn good company to be apart of!
The Saints brass also via the 2017 NFL Draft added two more defensive ends to the team. The 3rd round pick 103 out of Florida Atlantic Trey Hendrickson who is 6-5 270 lbs. and has 29.5 sacks & 41 tackles for loss in a four-year college career. The other defensive end is Al-Quadin Muhammad a 6th rounder pick 196 out of Miami who is raw but has speed & athleticism.
The stage is set for some serious battles at the other defensive end position opposite of Jordan’s. The order seems to be Okafor 1st which he is the most experience of the left ends then Kikaha & everyone else (Hendrickson, Obum Gwacham etc.). I must say it’s about time! The players are in place and many believe that the saints finally filled the position with enough talent & depth to make an impact opposite of Cam Jordan.