Saints draft Notre Dame edge rusher Foskey, TCU RB Miller
METAIRIE, La. (AP) — When Notre Dame all-time sack leader Isaiah Foskey was growing up east of the San Francisco Bay, New Orleans Saints career sack leader Cameron Jordan was a college star at Cal.
Now Foskey is Jordan's teammate and intends to learn everything he can from the eight-time Pro Bowl defensive end who was the Saints' first-round draft choice back in 2011.
“That’s the Hall of Famer type of guy,” Foskey said. “I can learn from him, be a sponge and soak it all in."
The Saints selected Foskey in the second round of the NFL draft on Friday night, adding a second player to their defensive front in as many picks.
New Orleans shifted its focus to offense in the third round, taking TCU running back Kendre Miller.
The Saints made the 6-foot-5, 264-pound Foskey the 40th overall selection one night after using their 29th overall draft pick on Clemson defensive tackle Bryan Bresee.
“Me and him are going to be dominating in the front seven," Foskey predicted. “So, that’s going to be great.”
Foskey also noted that his versatility fits a defensive philosophy in New Orleans of deploying players at multiple spots.
“The Saints picked me because they know they can put me anywhere and they know that I’m a disruptive defensive end,” Foskey said. "I cause havoc.”
Foskey had 11 sacks in each of the past two seasons to finish his career with 26 1/2.
He also blocked four punts for the Irish, and while Saints coach Dennis Allen said Foskey wasn't drafted for his special teams play, there was something to be said for his ability to come through with big plays.
“Play makers have a knack for making plays,” Allen said. “I don’t care what phase of the game that’s in.”
His best season statistically came in 2021, when he started 13 games and his team-high 52 total tackles included 12.5 tackles for loss. His 11 sacks ranked in the top 10 nationally in the NCAA's top-tier Football Bowl Subdivision. His six forced fumbles tied for first nationally.
But his former Notre Dame coaches stressed that Foskey's contributions to the Irish went beyond his impressive statistics.
Foskey was an “every-down player,” and "a guy who brought the best out in the guys around him, starting with how he worked,” Notre Dame defensive line coach Al Washington said. "His passion and how hard he plays is really what creates a lot of these opportunities (to make plays). ... He was an impact player for us in all phases.”
Foskey joins New Orleans after the departure this offseason of former starting defensive end Marcus Davenport in free agency. The Saints' projected starters at that spot are veteran Cameron Jordan and 2021 first-round draft choice Payton Turner. But Turner, who has had bouts with injuries and inconsistency, is hardly entrenched as New Orleans' No. 2 end and could be challenged by Foskey for snaps.
Allen is entering his second season in charge after six-plus seasons as New Orleans' defensive coordinator. He continues to oversee a defense that has ranked seventh or better the past three seasons.
New Orleans' 48 sacks in 2022 tied for fifth most in the NFL. But the unit struggled against the run last season, ranking 24th after having ranked fourth or better in that department the previous four seasons.
The 6-foot, 220-pound Miller rushed for 1,399 yards for TCU last season, averaging 6.7 yards per carry. In three seasons, he posted career totals of 2,410 yards and 26 TDs rushing to go with 29 catches for 229 yards and one TD receiving.
“We just liked the runner, the way he runs the ball. He runs with violence,” Allen said. “He’s got the speed to be a home run hitter, too.”
Although Miller was not a routine passing target out of the back field for the Horned Frogs, he asserted that he could excel in that area — something Alvin Kamara has done in New Orleans since 2017.
“I’ll be a great fit for the offense,” Miller said, citing his flexibility and balance among his strengths as a skill player.
New Orleans might need to find out sooner than later how well Miller can fill in for Kamara, whose pending criminal proceeding in Las Vegas, stemming from a fight that injured a man in a hotel, could lead to a multi-game suspension.
Miller injured his medial collateral ligament in TCU's College Football Playoff semifinal victory over Michigan, but Allen asserted, “We feel like that’s something that’s going to be cleaned up and he’ll be medically fine.”
The Saints also were slated to have five more picks in the final four rounds on Saturday.
New Orleans went 7-10 last season in Allen's first season as head coach. It was also the second straight season New Orleans missed the playoffs after having made postseason appearances in former quarterback Drew Brees' final four NFL seasons from 2017-2020.
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Brett Martel, The Associated Press