Undrafted Edge Rusher Might Step Up If The New Orleans Saints Highly-Touted Defensive Ends Fail This Season

If the more highly touted defensive ends on the Saints roster get off to another disappointing start, they may be replaced by this explosive undrafted pass rusher.
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The New Orleans Saints had only 34 sacks during the 2023-24 season, fourth fewest in the NFL. New Orleans defensive ends were particularly disappointing, combining for only 16 sacks, 41 QB hits, and 25 tackles for loss.

Consider that DE Carl Granderson accounted for over half those numbers by himself with 8.5 sacks, 20 QB hits, and 14 tackles for loss in a breakout year for him. Granderson, undrafted in 2018, out-produced the combined numbers of three former high-round draft picks.

Cam Jordan and Payton Turner are former first-round choices, while Isaiah Foskey was a second-round selection. Throw in the offseason addition of Chase Young, the second overall choice in the 2020 NFL Draft, and this looks like a formidable group....on paper.

Jordan is coming off an injury-plagued season, the worst statistical production since his rookie year, and turns 35 in July. Turner has missed an incredible 36 of 51 games with injuries. Foskey did virtually nothing as a rookie, though bigger development is expected in 2024. Even Young has not come anywhere close to his hype after a strong rookie year in 2020.


The Saints desperately need better production from their defensive ends this season. Despite several major questions, this position does have the potential to be a formidable group. If they can't show that early in training camp, however, it could open the door for an undrafted rookie to grab a spot.

Trajan Jeffcoat, DE - Arkansas

Mississippi State Bulldogs quarterback Mike Wright (14) is pressured by Arkansas Razorbacks defensive end Trajan Jeffcoat (7)
Mississippi State Bulldogs quarterback Mike Wright (14) is pressured by Arkansas Razorbacks defensive end Trajan Jeffcoat (7) / Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Jeffcoat began his collegiate career at Missouri, where he was a disruptive pass rush specialist for four years. He'd earn 1st Team All-SEC honors in a Covid-shortened campaign of 2020, recording six sacks and 19 pressures.

Over the next two years with the Tigers, he followed that up with 4.5 sacks but an impressive 38 pressures and 12.5 tackles for loss. Jeffcoat stayed in the SEC but transferred to Arkansas for the final year of his collegiate career. In his only season with the Razorbacks, he had four sacks, 19 pressures, and 8.5 tackles for loss.

At 6'4" and 266-Lbs., Jeffcoat has the frame and enough athleticism for either a 4-3 defensive end or 3-4 stand-up edge rusher. He's shown enough power to hold up against double teams on the edge and has solid recognition against the run.

Jeffcoat shows solid counter moves as a pass rusher and a good motor throughout every rep. He has excellent inside spin and rip moves and can blow through a tackle on their inner shoulder. His quickness at the snap and formidable power gets pass blockers on their heels quickly.

Oct 1, 2022; Georgia Bulldogs quarterback Stetson Bennett (13) is sacked by Missouri Tigers defensive end Trajan Jeffcoat (18)
Oct 1, 2022; Georgia Bulldogs quarterback Stetson Bennett (13) is sacked by Missouri Tigers defensive end Trajan Jeffcoat (18) / Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Without an agile bend around the edge, Jeffcoat can be too reliant on power moves as a pass rusher. As a result, he can be stood up along the edge and needs further development and refinement of his counter moves. He hasn't shown a great deal of athletic ability in space, which could spell trouble against mobile quarterbacks.

Jeffcoat needs to be a much bigger factor against the run. He struggles to disengage from blocks and will often lose leverage against run blockers. Only average in pursuit, he had less than 100 total tackles through his collegiate career.

Trajan Jeffcoat may appear to have an uphill battle to make the New Orleans roster. However, his natural pass rushing ability makes him an intriguing developmental project at the least. If he were to shine in training camp and preseason, it might even be enough to displace one of the more highly touted defensive ends on the Saints roster if they get off to another slow start.


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Bob Rose

BOB ROSE

Covers the New Orleans Saints as a senior writer for the Saints News Network.  Co-Host of the Bayou Blitz Podcast.