Sunday saw the Philadelphia Eagles lose their star quarterback Carson Wentz go down, and he’s been since declared out for the season for one of the league’s best teams. It’s unfortunate, to say the least. However, it’s inspired our weekly theme at SB Nation, which asks the question: Who’s the one player you can’t afford to lose?
For the New Orleans Saints, that figures to be an easy answer. Quarterback Drew Brees has a certain value that makes him indispensable. Chase Daniel is a capable backup, and could thrive having a backfield tandem of Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram. However, the Saints receivers outside of Michael Thomas have had their fair share of struggles getting separation, and there’s a clear deficiency at tight end. In turn, that could spell some trouble for Daniel.
Brees has missed one game due to injury in his Saints career, which saw Luke McCown step in to perform admirably against the Panthers in 2015. So, it’s not out of the question that Daniel could do well, but Brees and Sean Payton go together like peas and carrots. They have for over a decade, and they make for a dangerous duo.
It’d be hard not to give an honorable mention to Cam Jordan. Given the Saints pass rushing and run stopping woes since Alex Okafor went down, it only brings more attention to how valuable Jordan has been as both a defensive end and leader. Clearly, we’d never want to see either of these two go down and be lost, but at the same time, this NFL season has seen a lot of the big names go out, and it’s likely not over with.
Thoughts from the staff:
Bob Rose: It's still Brees for me. This offense struggles without Michael Thomas, Mark Ingram, or Alvin Kamara in the lineup, but it's paralyzed without Brees (just look at Green Bay). Defensively I'd definitely agree that it's Cam Jordan, but Marshon Lattimore is a close second. We saw the entire structure of the pass defense change with him sidelined.
John Sigler: Cameron Jordan. They won games without Lattimore, and Brees hasn't done much special since the closing minutes of the Washington game. They can beat the Bucs and the Jets with Chase Daniel, but not without Cam.
Rev Deuce Windham: Lattimore obviously next level, but when there are competent replacements behind him it wasn't that big a deal. There’s no one who can do what Cam Jordan does (or Drew Brees).
Chris Dunnells: Max Unger - I’m not saying he’s the best OL for the Saints, but rather that he’s the most difficult to replace. That was my rationale in answering the question: “Where can the Saints least afford an injury?” Hence, Cam and Brees as the other options to me. Cam Jordan is huge, especially after losing Okafor and Hendrickson, and that would be a close second. Lattimore is a playmaker on defense, but the Saints have shown that a healthy Crawley is at least enough to beat the Panthers twice. Brees is an obvious answer, but the Saints offense flows more through Ingram/Kamara than Brees at this point. That's not to say that this offense would work with Chase Daniel at the helm, but rather that almost any team (save the Vikings and Eagles?) that loses their starting QB is in a pickle, so that answer feels too cheap. We've seen injuries around the offensive line (Strief, Armstead, Warford, Kelemete, and Peat all missing time) and the Saints have been able to shuffle around decent-enough. If Unger, the anchor of the line, were to go out, I don't want to think about what the Saints would be forced to do. Unger was hurt preseason, but has been incredibly durable since Week 1, and Saints fans can take his presence and his role for granted. Both in pass-protection and in run-blocking, Unger's absence would be huge for the Saints offense.
Ellias Williams: Agree with everything, Cam Jordan is the man. Without him we have pretty much zero to no pass rush. He’s been as healthy as can be as well. Dude’s an animal, and I can’t remember last time he’s missed a game. I'd still say it's Kamara. Saints can't score points consistently without him. It's why he was ranked 28th on a list of points scored with 66. Everyone in ahead of him was place kickers. He's uber valuable to the success of this team, and based on Thursday Drew is no longer able to consistently elevate the play of guys around him. That's Russell Wilson now. So Drew needs Weapons that can make things happen. The best one on the team and on offense at doing that at a high rate is Kamara. He's enough of a playmaker to help both the offense and the defense because his ability to score takes pressure off of the D.