While the Eagles were among the league leaders in sacks last season, the pass rush may look very different next fall. Trent Cole could become a cap casualty, Brandon Graham could leave in free agency and the team could continue to use Marcus Smith as an inside linebacker. With a reasonable possibility of all three scenarios taking place at once, the Eagles may have to add a pass rusher early in April's draft.
The team can't trust Smith or the returning Travis Long to own one of the starting spots, so a potential exodus for Cole or Graham or both, would leave the Eagles in a bind. Pro Bowl linebacker Connor Barwin is the only lock to be in his current role next season, which leaves a lot of room for change. One of those alterations could be adding a youthful pass rusher like Washington's Hau'oli Kikaha.
A native of Hau'ula, Hawaii, Kikaha played defensive end in high school and committed to Washington in 2010. As a true freshman, Kikaha, a former judo league champion, appeared in 13 games (seven starts) and collected 49 tackles (eight for loss), three sacks and a forced fumble. In 2011, the sophomore started the first four games at defensive end before suffering a knee injury that ended his season. In those four contests, Kikaha compiled eight tackles (three for loss) and a sack.
In 2012, Kikaha suffered another knee injury during training camp and redshirted the entire season. He returned in 2013 for his redshirt junior year. He earned second-team All-Pac-12 honors after collecting 70 tackles (15.5 for loss), 13 sacks and three forced fumbles in 13 starts. In his final season with the Huskies, Kikaha was named a unanimous All-American after setting a new school record with 19 sacks as a redshirt senior. Kikaha had a sack in all 14 starts and added 72 tackles (25 for loss) and three forced fumbles.
Kikaha owns the Washington records for sacks in a career (36), sacks in a season (19) and tackles for loss in a season (25). He was invited to the Senior Bowl and participated in the game. He was also interviewed by the Eagles during the week of practices.
Standing at 6-foot-2 and 246 pounds, Kikaha is extremely quick off the edge. He has a ridiculously vicious motor, as he doesn't stop until the whistle is blown. He rushes with a lot of force, as he accelerates into contact. While he is lanky, Kikaha has strength and there is tape of him knocking massive lineman off their feet.
Kikaha consistently gets to the quarterback and uses his hands very well to get around blockers. He has the ability to bend and dip with fluid hips that allow him to shake off blocks. His ability to change direction is special.
He was an Academic All-American and served as a captain in several games throughout his college career. Kikaha is the definition of a high-character player.
Kikaha is a bit sloppy with contact and will get manhandled at times due to uneven balance. He is not a sound tackler and at times, struggles against the run. He doesn't have a ton of experience in space, but is too small be a consistent NFL defensive end. He will likely convert to linebacker, where he has limited experience. His history of knee injuries is also concerning.
While Kikaha isn't an experienced 3-4 outside linebacker, his character traits and athletic ability fit what the Eagles look for in college talent. Kikaha has a lot of experience rushing the passer and has played at a high level in a conference that Chip Kelly is very familiar with. He is a player who has played against Kelly and the team liked him enough to interview him at the Senior Bowl. The pairing of Kikaha and Barwin could be a nasty combo on the field and a positive influence in the Eagles locker room. Kikaha looks to be a fringe first round pick but may be available in the early second round via a Jordan Matthews-like trade up.
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