Dec 11, 2011; Arlington, TX, USA; New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) scrambles from Dallas Cowboys defensive end Kenyon Coleman (99) in the fourth quarter of the game at Cowboys Stadium. The Giants beat the Cowboys 37-34. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Injury Bug Bites the New Orleans Saints

Before the start of training camp, the NFC South was one of very few divisions in the NFL where one could make a very potent argument in favor of any of the four teams winning the division in 2013.

This week, the New Orleans Saints just lost one great reason and a second, somewhat more “average” one.

DE Kenyon Coleman and WR Joe Morgan both will miss the entire 2013 season with injuries. An ACL for Morgan and pectoral muscle tear for Coleman. Both will undergo surgical procedures within the next couple of days, then healing time and the long road to rehab.

Victor Butler, an OLB transplant from Dallas, had already been lost for the season with an ACL. WR Marques Colston was on the PuP list at the start of camp and his status isn’t certain. With both Coleman and Butler out, the Saints will have their work cut out for them to just SLOW another team down, let alone stopping anybody.

IF I’m an NFL punter and I see the Saints on the schedule, I don’t worry about being out late Saturday night and coming to the stadium hung over that week.

For you Fantasy Football gurus out there, keep an eye on the name Kenny Stills. Stills is a rookie out of Oklahoma that the Saints drafted in the 5th round and now steps into the role of the team’s “deep threat” receiver.

Yeah – sounds good – but for the fact that few rookie WRs light it up in terms of production, and a 5th round pick is hardly a ringing endorsement of a kid’s potential to quickly make a meaningful contribution. However, injuries do happen as we already know from other teams so far this year, and Kenny Stills’ fantasy value just took a nice bump up.

Jul 28, 2013; Metairie, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints free safety Malcolm Jenkins (27) intercepts a pass in front of wide receiver Joe Morgan (13) during a morning training camp practice at the team training facility. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

I love his tackle on the pick here by Malcolm Jenkins. That’s one way to make sure he doesn’t run it back, I suppose, although Morgan would have spotted the other team 15 yards. Hey, it’s one way to get noticed!

Coleman’s absence is by far the more damaging one if you’re a Saints fan.

Rob Ryan, the team’s first-year defensive coordinator, is almost as well-known for his flamboyance as he is for the family business – namely, the 46 defense.

The 46 defense is an aggressive version of the 3-4 defense, and Coleman was brought in from Dallas (along with Ryan) to be the team’s blocker-eating, run-stopping defensive end. Ryan had touted him as “the best run-stopping 3-4 defensive end in the NFL.”

Doubtful, but the statement alone speaks to the team’s defensive woes. Rookie safety Kenny Vaccaro has been very physical so far in training camp and should help improve the back end of the defense in the passing game, but a team who broke the NFL record for yards/game allowed (without looking it up, I think it was around 450 yds/game, give or take 5) certainly can use all the help it can get, don’t you think?

Yeah, I think. Maybe not the same thing some of you readers think, but I do think, and I also think we can all agree on that premise, at least.

What this means is more pressure on both the offense and the defense in 2013 and that’s just from Coleman’s injury alone.

See, when a team with a horrible defense loses a “key” player, well, they generally don’t have interchangeable parts to just plug in another and go. Especially when that side of the football just tore up the record books and in the worst way.

The Saints’ defense should improve just by virtue of perhaps a better defensive coach and a few new faces alone, it’ll still be a bottom-third unit. If they can’t get off the field, it means Drew Brees IS off of it and makes each and every possession they DO have that much more important.

I hope hazing-induced rookie ‘dos don’t get ruined by wearing a helmet, by the way. At least he’s easy to spot OUT of pads, I guess.

Jul 26, 2013; Metairie, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints rookie wide receiver Kenny Stills during the first day of training camp at the team facility. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Look for the Saints to win some shootouts…41-38 and such. They’ll lose by similar scores at times and also will get completely blown out a few times as well. I think they’ll be a tough team to pin down on predictions in any given week and for sure in the early going.

Meanwhile, Kenny Stills is quietly and privately rejoicing at his new role, but likely a bit intimidated by it at the same time. With Brees throwing him balls, he should have a great chance to make a splash early in his career but that is yet to be seen. Fantasy folks will just have to keep a close eye on his progress in training camp and in the preseason to get a glimpse at any possible upside (or downside) he has.

The way things look right now, the Atlanta Falcons are still the class of the NFC South and will be until someone knocks them off their perch. The Saints now look to be struggling to stay out of the cellar when the dust clears.

Well, there’s one name that springs to mind that might help take some pressure OFF of that defense, and it probably isn’t who you might be thinking about right now.

The name is Mark Ingram.

All he did was win a Heisman Trophy and about fifteen NCAA National Championships (give or take 5) with Nick “Satan’s” Alabama Crimson Tide in college.

True, he’s no longer a stranger to the NFL, but he could really see his stats skyrocket this year.

First, there are the two injuries. While neither directly affects his production, both together could. If you want to protect/hide your defense, you want long, sustained drives and that isn’t how the Saints typically roll.

What I’m saying is they could LOOK to use a more balanced attack than the usual 45+ passing attempts by Drew Brees and their top ball carrier getting ten attempts. If they can get 20 carries/game out of Ingram, more in some situations, it could help increase their time of possession and therefore help keep that dinged D on the sidelines that much longer.

If not, it could be a long, long season for the Saints. It’ll be interesting to see how Sean Payton changes his approach to the offense…or if he does at all.

Time will tell.

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Tags: New Orleans Saints New Orleans Saints Injuries 2013 NFC South

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