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Dannell Ellerbe’s unavailability gives Craig Robertson the start

Dannell Ellerbe is out for Week 1, which means Craig Robertson is in.

NFL: New Orleans Saints-OTA Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Saints have released their Friday injury report, which is sure to have fans shaking their heads.

Linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (quad) has been ruled out for Sunday’s Week 1 contest against the Oakland Raiders. Ellerbe has not practiced this week.

Rookie wide receiver Michael Thomas (ankle), left tackle Terron Armstead (knee/quad), and tight end Chris Manhertz (head) are questionable.

In Ellerbe’s absence, it’s safe to assume that Craig Robertson will start at weak side linebacker. The bigger concern for the Saints may be with Armstead, as he’ll be a key piece in keeping Drew Brees upright against a threatening Raiders defense.

It’s worth pointing out that part of Ellerbe’s 2016 restructured contract (2 years, $5 million) is directly tied to his playing time. He participated in 256 snaps (23.7 percent) last season for the Saints in six games.

Robertson started 37 games during his first four seasons with the Cleveland Browns. He has stood out in training camp and the preseason, and is a strong coverage linebacker, which is something the Saints have desperately missed over the past several seasons.

It’s an eerie thought, but the Saints have just over 50 percent of returning players on defense to start on Sunday: Cameron Jordan, Tyeler Davison, Stephone Anthony, Delvin Breaux, Kenny Vaccaro and Jairus Byrd.