The New Orleans Saints have not hid the fact that they still want to improve the defensive side of the ball in 2018. The Saints traded a 2019 first round pick to trade up in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft and select Marcus Davenport to rush the passer opposite Cam Jordan. The first free agents the Saints brought in this offseason were all on defense: Patrick Robison, Kurt Coleman, Demario Davis, and re-signing Alex Okafor.
If you break up the defense into four categories - defensive line, linebackers, cornerbacks and safeties, it would be the defensive line and linebackers that would be the two weakest of the four groups. That’s why the Saints re-signed Alex Okafor, signed Demario Davis, and drafted Marcus Davenport. But now with added bodies to those two position groups, a player like Hau’oli Kikaha could get pushed off the roster. That’s why Bleacher Report recognized Kikaha as the player for the Saints that needs to have a big minicamp performance.
In 2015, Hau’oli Kikaha showed promise as a rotational edge-rusher for the New Orleans Saints. He topped 50 tackles and pitched in four sacks as a rookie.
Since then, though, everything that could go wrong did. A torn ACL cost him the 2016 season. A scheme change. An ankle injury ended a so-so third season prematurely.
Now, as Kikaha enters the last year of his rookie deal, he’s gone from promising young player to clinging to a roster spot while trying to learn a new position.
As Joel Erickson of the New Orleans Advocate reported, the Saints tried Kikaha as a strong-side linebacker in OTAs.
”I enjoy it, and I think I’m doing pretty well,” Kikaha said. “I’ve just got to organize some man-coverage stuff, but I’ve gotten a few reps at that, and the more you do, the better you get.”
To be clear, if this transition doesn’t work out, it’s entirely possible Kikaha will visit “The Turk” this summer. That isn’t to say his NFL career would be over—someone would take a shot on him.
But his New Orleans career might be.
Kakahi has shown versatility playing both defensive end and linebacker, but unfortunately, has been largely uninspiring at either. Hopefully the added pressure of potentially falling off the roster could lead to a career year for Kikaha.