Hau’oli Kikaha spent last season making offensive tackles look foolish.
With his combination of a quick first step and violent hands, the second-round pick of the New Orleans Saints didn’t find too many blockers he couldn’t solve or move out of the way.
He met is match against Stanford. At left tackle, the Cardinal featured future Saints’ first-round Andrus Peat, who spent an afternoon last year keeping Kikaha at bay.
Peat didn’t shut Kikaha out. There were times when the linebacker won and worked his way into the backfield, but it was never easy, as it sometimes appeared in some of Kikaha’s other games.
Watching this game between Stanford and Washington, it’s easy to see why the Saints took Peat with the No. 13 pick. He’s a force at left tackle. He’s not going to surrender anything easily and has the quickness and strength to keep even the most explosive pass rushers out of the backfield.
And at 6-foot-6, 313 pounds, he brings a surprising amount of athleticism to the position. He can cut off rushing lanes and funnel people where he wants them to go. And he has the mobility to get down the field in the running game and block in the second the level.
He’s the future at one of the tackle positions. For now, however, it’s unclear how he will initially fit in. The Saints have Zach Strief and Terron Armstead manning the tackle positions, so Peat’s time might not come until down the road.
In the immediate future, unless the Saints want to move someone to guard or Peat beats out one of the incumbents, he might serve as depth and be granted some time to learn behind the scenes.
That might not be a bad thing. There are some raw elements to his game, and he could benefit by learning to play with a lower pad level. Some keen observers also say he has issues with his balance that could be cleaned up.
But after watching how well he handled Kikaha, there’s plenty to like and there should be optimism that the Saints found a long-term answer for the offensive line.
Here’s a quick look at two other members of the draft class:
Marcus Murphy, running back/return man: Think back to how anemic the Saints return game was until Jalen Saunders was given an opportunity to end the drought last season.
Now go find videos of Marcus Murphy returning kicks. You’ll start envisioning him doing those kinds of things for the Saints. The excitement will be unavoidable.
As a seventh-round pick, Murphy is far from a lock to make the roster. But, if nothing else, New Orleans will at least have legitimate options at returner to choose from.
Murphy exhibits great vision with the ball in space, and those same traits could make him a sleeper contributor on offense. The 5-foot-8 running back is dangerous with the ball in space and uses an array of quick cuts to make defenders miss.
Murphy also brings with him a set of solid hands and the ability to run good routes, which could make him an asset in the passing game in a reserve role.
The big question is whether he can contribute in the running game. There are some moments he struggles to read blocks, which leaves something to be desired.
Damian Swann, defensive back: Since there are no cut-up videos of Swann available online, it’s difficult to form a deep, informed opinion on what he brings to the table. Instead, the impressions here come from seeing bits and pieces of his performances.
The 6-foot defensive back appears to be serviceable at either cornerback or safety in a depth role. He often displays good instincts and jumps routes. He also has the physicality to cause issues for wide receivers at the line of scrimmage.
He also exhibits traits that could beneficial in the running game. He appears to understand angles and often puts himself in position to make plays. In this regard, Swann is a physical presence and is also an effective blitzer.
He also shows some ability to cover the slot.
If necessary, Swann could carve out a living early on serving on special teams while serving as depth in the secondary.