Saints News | New Orleans Saints |

John DeShazier: Young defensive linemen ready to get to work for Saints

Three undrafted defensive linemen made opening 53-man roster

Along the New Orleans Saints' starting defensive line is mix that segues from veteran leadership (13-year pro Kevin Williams) to youthful seasoning (third-year vet John Jenkins).

But behind them is a group that'd better have its identification at the ready.

New Orleans has five rookie defensive linemen on its 53-man roster and, perhaps even more of an oddity, three of them – defensive ends Tavaris Barnes and Bobby Richardson, and defensive tackle Kaleb Eulls – were undrafted.

The three showed flashes of potential during OTAs, minicamp, training camp and preseason. Now, each is a member of an NFL team that will open the regular season Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals, at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.

"I thought it was a good camp for them," Coach Sean Payton said. "I thought that was one group that, all of a sudden, we hit on a few whether it was Richardson, whether it was (practice squad defensive lineman and rookie free agent Ashaad) Mabry, Eulls. All those guys, at some point during camp, did some things that really impressed. Barnes is another one.

"They're different players, and those are hard positions to find whether you're drafting or trying to sign in free agency. We were pleased with that group. That's as good a young group as we've signed in the 10 years I've been here. We'll see how they progress but in talking with each one of them, I think that they're genuinely excited for the opportunity. We'll see how much playing time these guys get and how we utilize them."

In truth, they don't care how they're utilized. Eulls likened the news of making the roster to another of the bookmark acts in his life. When he was 18 years old, he disarmed a gunwoman on a school bus.

"The situation was the girl was saying that she'd been bullied," he said. "I guess she decided to take matters into her own hands by bringing a gun on the bus.

"I just kind of grabbed her attention, got her focused on me because I was one of the older kids on the bus as that time. Once she wasn't focused for a quick second, I knew that was the right time and moment. I went at her and got the gun away from her.

"(Waiting to hear if I'd made the team) felt just about the same. You had your heart racing and everything. But this time, all I could do was sit back and wait. I couldn't react this time."

Barnes, who was at the barber shop when he received word, definitely mustered a reaction. Emotions overtook the 6-foot-3, 275-pounder.

"I was uneasy the whole day," Barnes said. "I was in the barber shop getting a haircut when Coach Payton called me. I was nervous because they said, 'When they call you, you're getting cut.'

"I talked to J. Mitch (director of coaching administration Jason Mitchell) and I was like, 'I already know, I'm about to get cut.' He was like, 'No, let me put you on the phone with Coach Payton.' Coach Payton told me that Green Bay wasn't one of my better games, but they liked what I did, they were going to put me on the active roster. I was trying to hold it together. I broke down crying, right there.

"I'm just blessed. God opened a door. A lot of people counted me out – a lot of my old teammates, a lot of people I grew up around. They counted me out, but God counted me in. I'm still on cloud nine, but it's time to go to work now."

For Richardson, it was the latest response to a question posed by his father, Bobby Richardson, Jr. After his son was in his third high school in as many years, having not played football at the previous two because he didn't make the team at one school and had a dustup with the coach at another, the elder Richardson asked his son, "What now?"

The younger Richardson responded by putting together a standout senior season and earning a scholarship to Indiana.

"It was very nerve-wracking," Richardson said. "You know how much time you put into it, how much work you put into it. You still know anything can happen. It's just a big blessing to be here and I just want to stay here."

Eulls, who played at Mississippi State and whose hometown is Yazoo City, Miss. (population 11,400), has as strong a desire to stay as any of them.

"I did research on the organization," he said. "I know most teams focus on themselves but coming here is just like being back at Mississippi State.

"It's a family-oriented team – they care about each other, they coach each other up and there's always someone you can come and talk to. I'm at home, just right up the road from Yazoo, my family can visit me and see me play."

See him play with an NFL team, as an undrafted rookie, one of three such players on the Saints' roster this season, but one of many such players to have become Saints during Payton's 10 seasons.

"I checked the roster and they had plenty of free agents that made the team, so I knew they were one of the teams that gave fair chances," Richardson said of the selection process that led him to chase his dream with the Saints, rather than another franchise.

"I took my luck here, and I made it."

Photos of the Saints 2015 53-man roster. New Orleans Saints photos.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content