Alex Okafor signed with the New Orleans Saints this offseason, in part, because he saw an opportunity to earn a significant role.
The 26-year-old defensive end wanted to be the player coaches trusted to lock down the spot on the line opposite Cameron Jordan, and in Week 1, it seemed Okafor’s plan had come to fruition.
Starting at right defensive end and moving inside for some snaps at defensive tackle, Okafor played 54 of 68 snaps (83 percent) in last Monday’s loss to the Minnesota Vikings. Okafor’s snap total ranked third among Saints defensive linemen behind Jordan (64) and defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins (58).
Last season with the Arizona Cardinals, Okafor’s season high in snaps was 28, so he received some validation in Week 1 for his reasoning to join the Saints.
“It was definitely encouraging, the fact that they’re cementing me out there opposite Cam,” Okafor said. “I just got to continue to improve and prove them right.”
There’s no guarantee Okafor will play that much moving forward. The Saints’ top backup defensive end Hau’oli Kikaha played just 16 snaps in his first appearance since 2015, so he should have an opportunity to play more. Rookie Trey Hendrickson (illness) was also inactive for the game.
“He played more snaps than we’d like when you look at his pitch count relative to what he’s been playing,” coach Sean Payton said of Okafor. “We’ve got to really pay attention to that and make sure he’s not playing that many, but overall, I think there were some good things.”
Even as a starter for the Cardinals in 2015, Okafor played more than 54 snaps just three times, so don’t be surprised if his…
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