METAIRIE, La. — Every once in awhile, a player will file into training camp as an undrafted rookie and flash signs of brilliance, setting the hearts of a team’s fan base aflutter.
Glenn Foster is that somebody for the Saints this year. And it’s not just the fans who have taken notice. It’s coach Sean Payton, too.
“When you get a player who comes in a rookie class as an undrafted free agent and is playing like he is and well enough to make the team, that’s a good deal,” Payton said. “That’s a good sign. We are pleased with how he is playing.”
The Saints needed somebody like Foster, an athletic 6-foot-4, 285-pound force on the edge who has shown both speed and power in getting into an opponent’s backfield so far this preseason.
While Akiem Hicks and Cameron Jordan have near locks on both starting end positions, Foster has worked his way into the conversation as a backup.
That’s quite the feat for a guy undrafted out of Illinois who finished his college time with only four career sacks. Regardless, he figured he should be in the NFL.
“I just felt like I had the talent to be drafted and be (with) a contender here,” Foster said. “I just (wanted to) go out here and prove to these coaches, to the league, and to this organization that I’m here to play.”
When Kenyon Coleman went down with a season-ending pectoral tear, the depth chart below him bumped up one spot. It’s possible that injury opened a place for Foster to fill.
So far, so good. He’s third on the team with seven tackles this preseason and his three sacks leads the Saints.
Pro Football Focus lists him as the top 3-4 defensive end this preseason, grading out near the top in pass rush and better than average against the run. No 3-4 end has more sacks or more quarterback hurries than Foster during this preseason.
“It feels pretty awesome,” Foster said. “Being able to transition from practice to a game is always good. It’s been something I’ve been working on this whole offseason since OTAs, so to see it pay off is a good feeling.”
Maybe it’s that we’re seeing now what Payton saw before the NFL draft that made the coach personally court him. Payton did, after all, make three calls to Foster in an hour to try and get the former Illini lineman in the building.
“I had a handful of options but I talked to coach Payton and he told me that I had a legitimate shot of making the team as a free agent,” Foster said.
Foster said OK, a decision Payton feels is not just in the team’s best interest, but also in the player’s.
“These players coming out now are very smart about the depth chart about the roster and not making the decision over $2,500 prior to taxes in signing bonus,” Payton said. “They are really looking close at where can I make a team and where can I have a chance. To his credit, fortunately for us, he chose us.”