Leave it to the New Orleans Saints to lull you into a false sense of security. At least that’s what fans may be thinking after the recent news of Terron Armstead. As disappointing as it is, the offensive line will not have their starting left tackle for a best-case scenario of four months. We haven’t even made it to training camp, and the black and gold could realistically be without three key starters by the time the 2017 regular season kicks off.
Center Max Unger is still recovering from foot surgery, and recently told the media that he’s eyeing a Week 1 return. Defensive tackle Nick Fairley has been given two different opinions (and has had tests for a third) on what he should do for his football career, and we still await what will ultimately be decided on his future.
Last season saw players drop off in an uncharacteristic fashion, primarily on the defensive side of the ball. In essence, those tough lessons taught us the value and importance of having depth in addition to quality starters. And now that’s what the Saints will have to heavily rely on, at least for the next few months.
The ‘next man up’ mentality is real, as the Saints look to fill the void through both a combination of seasoned veterans and a potential rookie (Ryan Ramczyk). Naturally, Ramczyk has some slight concern to him after coming off of hip surgery in January, but he’s expected to be a full go at training camp and was spotted taking first-team reps at left tackle from Armstead’s absence during minicamp. Suddenly, taking him with the 32nd overall pick doesn’t seem so absurd as it was once thought by so many.
As for Nick Fairley, that’s arguably the biggest wildcard for the Saints. On one hand, you could say that both Tyeler Davison and David Onyemata could pick up the slack for the veteran. On the other, Fairley’s production isn’t something easily replaced. The Saints did sign veteran Tony McDaniel, who has missed only two games over the past four seasons. However, he’s also 32, and would realistically fit in more as a Kevin Williams type of player. Sean Payton alluded to him being used in more first and second down situations during his post-practice presser on Wednesday, so he wouldn’t be a complete answer for Fairley’s 722 snaps from a season ago.
The answers to the Saints ‘holes’ may be on the roster right now, or could be sitting on someone else’s team. Something that can’t be overlooked is the massive amount of players that will be released under the NFL’s new rule change for 2017, which will see rosters trim down from 90 to 53 players, omitting the 75-player cutdown. So, presumably we’d see some 1,504 players out of a job after the final preseason contest.
That’s where Director of Pro Scouting Terry Fontenot comes in. One of the things he and his team is responsible for is monitoring the player movement that happens, and if the Saints were to be in a spot where they could nab what they may see as potential ‘upgrade’ could very well happen. Make no mistake about it, they’ll have to keep an eye other teams during the preseason process, as mundane as it may be.
In essence, it’s a fairly scary thought that the Saints could be missing key parts of their team. But no matter how you slice it, they have to press on because of what’s actually at stake. After three straight 7-9 seasons, fans grow tired of mediocrity, and other teams have proven that they can overcome. Unfortunately, it feels that the team is out of excuses and chances to make believers.
If you had to be without a player to start the season and potentially longer, who would it be?
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