Injuries are the great equalizer in all of sports. The wrong injury to the right star may bring a championship contender tumbling down to the bottom of the pack. No team is exempt from this rule of fate. Two keys to success are hoping that your team has good depth when the injury bug does bite, and that the biggest stars stay healthy. The New Orleans Saints possess one of the deeper rosters in the National Football League, but like all teams they are affected by injury during the year. The Saints made it to the NFC title game last season on the strength of their depth and star power. They may have an even more complete roster this year, with the return of a number of players who missed significant portions of the 2018 season.
Patrick Robinson, cornerback
The 31-yr. old Robinson was a first round draft choice of New Orleans in 2010 out of Florida State, the 32nd overall selection. Robinson had a mixed career of ups and downs during five years with the Saints that included 9 interceptions, until departing as a free agent after the 2014 season. After bouncing from the Chargers to the Colts in two seasons after his departure, Robinson landed with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2017, where he was a integral part of their defensive secondary on the way to a Super Bowl championship. Robinson had rounded into one of the better slot corners in the league while with Philadelphia, a spot he was expected to fortify when rejoining the Saints. Unfortunately, Robinson suffered a broken ankle in a week three win at Atlanta, an ailment that landed him on injured reserve and ended his 2018 season, while New Orleans often struggled with slot receivers. His insertion back in the lineup strengthens a Saints secondary that has a Pro Bowl caliber cornerback in Marshon Lattimore, another capable outside corner in Eli Apple, and experienced safety play from Vonn Bell and Marcus Williams as well as corner P.J Williams. New Orleans also added Chauncey Gardner-Johnson in the draft's 4th round, who is expected to add athleticism at safety and take on a slot coverage role himself. Robinson's experience and athleticism in the slot will give added options and versatility for Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen and secondary coach Aaron Glenn, allowing them to square off against the deepest receiving corps in the NFL.
Cameron Meredith, wide receiver
Meredith was a free agent addition last offseason, formerly of the Chicago Bears. The 26-yr. old Meredith was beginning to look like one of the league's top up and coming wideouts in 2016 with the Bears, when he led them with 66 receptions for 888 yards and four scores despite poor quarterback play. He suffered a severe knee injury in the 2017 preseason that forced him to miss that entire season though, and would not be recovered when joining the Saints. Meredith missed most of the '18 preseason, and would only appear in six regular season contests with just 9 catches for 114 yards before being placed on injured reserve by New Orleans. The 6'3 207-lb. Meredith is a physical receiver with good hands and the ability to operate well through the intermediate zones. His ability to revert to his pre-injury form will give quarterback Drew Brees another big target to go along with Michael Thomas, something that limited the Saints offense often last year. The added production should even help speed the development of second year wideouts Tre'quan Smith and Keith Kirkwood.
Ted Ginn Jr., wide receiver
Ginn was an important part of the Saints offense in 2017, after his free agent signing away from division rival Carolina. The thirteen year veteran is still one of the faster players in the league, and one of the most feared deep threats in the NFL. Ginn got off to a slow start in 2018, then was shelved for twelve games thanks to a knee injury. Although he did return during the final month of the season, most defenses were able to clamp down on the Saints shorter routes without him in the lineup. Ginn still seems to possess much of his trademark speed and deep ball abilities, even at 34 years old. He adds a gamebreaking element to the multifaceted New Orleans offense, and his presence on the field should create room underneath for Thomas, Alvin Kamara, newly signed tight end Jared Cook, and the rest of the Saints weapons.
Sheldon Rankins, defensive tackle
Rankins had a monstrous 2018 season that should have been worthy of All-Pro consideration. The 12th overall selection in the 2016 draft, Rankins dominated offenses at times last year, finishing with 8 sacks, 40 tackles (12 for loss), a forced fumble, and 15 quarterback hits. The 25-yr. old lineman suffered an Achilles injury during the Saints divisional playoff win over Philadelphia though, an injury that will likely keep him out of action until midseason. Rankins' absence from the lineup was a noticeable loss in the Saints NFC Championship game against the Rams, raising some concern about the team's interior defensive line as they enter 2019. New Orleans signed free agent tackles Malcom Brown and Mario Edwards Jr., two former high draft picks, to strengthen the interior, and reportedly are in the running to sign former Buccaneers All-Pro Gerald McCoy. Rankins is one of the defense's top stars though, a player who can wreck an opponent's game plan with interior disruption. His full recovery takes an already deep defensive line that already contains All-Pro Cam Jordan and potential second year star Marcus Davenport on the edges to an elite level. A recipe that might signal disaster to offenses throughout the NFL.