Kasim Edebali has spent the last two weeks trying to learn a new position on the fly.
Edebali, an outside linebacker/defensive end ‘tweener who has almost always been used as a pass rusher, opened training camp as a defensive end.
Then the Saints’ defensive staff saw something in Edebali’s skill set.
“Coach told me ‘You can move in space, you can move around, let’s put you in a position where you can do all these things,'” Edebali said.
Edebali has been shifted to strong-side linebacker in the Saints’ base 4-3 defense, a role he’s never really played before.
In the running game, the fit actually feels more natural.
“It actually feels nice,” Edebali said. “You’re standing up, you can see a little bit more. If you’re in a four-point stance, a three-point stance, you see you’re man. Now I see what’s going on in the backfield, the different sets, it’s a little bit more information intake.”
The hardest part for Edebali is learning to play in coverage. The Boston College product has spent most of his career learning to go forward; now he’s being asked to backpedal into coverage on some snaps.
Edebali’s first few days were tough. Now, he feels like he’s getting the hang of it.
And his days as a pass rusher are from over. When the Saints go to their nickel and dime packages — which will likely be more than 70 percent of the time in the regular season — Edebali’s hand is back in the dirt, attacking the quarterback off the edge.
Now, the key for the Saints is figuring out where Edebali fits best.
“He’s a high-motor player, he plays with great effort and energy,” Payton said. “We know he can play in the kicking game, which is a huge plus. The key is finding his growth in the defense. Is that coming in sub downs as a pass rusher, is it in base as an outside linebacker? That’s what we’re evaluating now.”