Hau’oli Kikaha is ready for whatever Dennis Allen asks him to do.
Kikaha, who spent Tuesday afternoon helping a large contingent of Saints hand out the Thanksgiving dinners they bought for under-served families in New Orleans, is taking the Saints change at defensive coordinator in stride.
“I’m just thankful to be a part of what we have,” Kikaha said. “I have faith in what we’re doing, and I’ll just keep my head down and keep grinding.”
Kikaha is content to leave the big picture — and any guesses at the impact Allen might have — up to the Saints’ decision-makers.
For Kikaha, the task remains the same.
“I’m not sure (how Allen might impact the defense). I haven’t been a part of this before,” Kikaha said. “It’s my first time, and I’m excited, as all rookies should be. ... Now DA’s doing the coordinating, and I’m going whatever direction he says.”
Allen, who talked to every member of the Saints defense after his promotion, has spent most of the season focused on the secondary, but the front seven is very familiar with their new defensive coordinator.
During defensive meetings, every member of the staff spends time going over certain areas of the defense, so the Saints defense is already comfortable with Allen.
“Rob (Ryan) is a great coach, I’ll say that. I love Rob, he’s a great guy, very respectful, very hard-working,” Kikaha said. “Dennis Allen is the same thing. Respectful, honest, hard-working, and that’s all I can ask as a player of my coaches.”
A lot of NFL players use the open week to get away and get a mini-vacation in the middle of a long, grueling season.
Kikaha had other plans for the first open week of his NFL career.
The rookie linebacker stayed in the New Orleans area and focused on rehabbing the ankle injury that has limited him to just nine snaps in the past two games.
“I definitely put in a lot of work during the bye week,” Kikaha said. “Stayed here, did a couple of therapy sessions a day, and I’m feeling good.”
Kikaha wasn’t sure if he could say whether he’d be back against the Houston Texans on Sunday.
New Orleans needs Kikaha back on the defensive side of the ball. Kikaha, who was hurt against the New York Giants on Nov. 1, ranks second on the team with four sacks and five quarterback hits, and his 36 tackles is fourth on the Saints despite the injury.
“I just have an opportunity to be out there and try to make an impact,” Kikaha said. “Whatever direction they point me in, I’m going full speed.”
Willie Snead used the open week to get away.
Snead headed home to Florida to spend time with his family, a welcome respite from the grind of his first full NFL season.
The breakout star of the New Orleans offense was battling a lingering knee issue when the open week arrived, but the time away helped.
“I feel amazing,” Snead said.
Snead, who has 41 catches for 626 yards and three touchdowns this season, was one of many Saints who needed the open week to allow lingering injuries to heal.
“A lot of guys’ bodies were beat up,” Snead said. “We just needed to get healthy and get back on track. I feel like this bye week is really going to be helpful for everybody, coaches and players. When Sunday comes, we’ll be ready to go.”