After a strong 2014 NFL Draft and a dip into the free agent market, the New Orleans Saints are loaded up on the defensive side of the ball. Adding depth to the line was a top priority this offseason, and the Black and Gold did just that by adding undrafted rookie defensive end George Uko.
A product of USC, Uko was a Parade All-American as a California prep heading into college. Following his redshirt year in 2010, he played in 12 games and recorded 18 tackles, 1.5 sacks and two forced fumbles in 2011. He earned the job as the full-time starter in 2012, rotating between defensive end, defensive tackle and nose tackle.
That year, he racked up 31 tackles (nine for loss), five sacks and a forced fumble. In 2013, he went on to make all 14 starts at right defensive end and accumulated 36 tackles (seven for loss), five more sacks and another forced fumble.
At 6-foot-3 and 284 pounds, Uko brings good leverage, size and versatility to the Saints’ defensive line. After leaving school early, he has some developing to do, but could end up being a nice fit in Rob Ryan‘s aggressive scheme. New Orleans’ defensive coordinator tends to rotate guys in and out quite a bit. Uko will have the opportunity to see a piece of action as a pass rusher from the start if he performs well during training camp.
Pro-Bowl DE Cam Jordan and Akiem Hicks have their jobs tightly secured. A five-way battle between Uko, Tyrunn Walker, Lawrence Virgil, Brandon Deaderick and Glenn Foster will likely take place for a roster spot and playing time. Walker, who has the upper hand due to experience, looks to be Uko’s main competition at right end for the spot behind Jordan.
The former USC Trojan has his work cut out for him, but I do see him making the New Orleans Saints’ 53-man roster. Training camp is the time to display your talent and show coaches how you can help better the organization. Now is Uko’s chance to make his case.