With Injuries Mounting on the Defensive Line, the Saints Will Need to Prove Their Depth Wasn't Merely of Perception
Look, this news sucked…
…and this news, while sucking more than enough in its own right, makes that news suck even more….
The former begs questions about the long-term durability of a blossoming, endlessly athletic freak whose career will inevitably be defined by the return on the investment that ‘two firsts’ has come to be both fondly and sarcastically known by. The latter begs questions about a super-skilled pocket-penetrator's ability to regain his form as the shockingly fleet-of-foot destroyer of worlds he developed into prior to a previous season-ending setback as he heads into a contract year.
What neither should beg, however, is questions about the Saints’ ability to fulfill their Super Bowl aspirations this season. As simplistically dismissive as the following reads, injuries inevitably happen to every team in NFL. Therefore, while you’d prefer they don’t afflict starters down the stretch, the best case scenario is that you suffer them at readily reinforced positions. Everyone was basting their turkey to the Saints' defensive line depth on Thanksgiving, and I regret to inform you that depth isn’t only an amazing thing to have when it's allowing you to flagrantly fondle yourself to an embarrassment of available riches.
Let’s not forget, there were people that thought Trey Hendrickson was a better player than Marcus Davenport earlier this season. Granted, those people were prisoners of the moment and/or future inhabitants of an insane asylum, but it even being up for dumbfounding debate speaks to the evolving capabilities of a third round pick whose annually exciting August audition finally resulted in him earning an impactful role in meaningful games. Shy Tuttle might be lesser known, regardless of his starring role in a timeless GIF, but rest assured that his overall play of late is anything but bashful...
With Cam Jordan routinely causing chaos as a catastrophic combination of consistency and production, the Saints’ pass-rush is in good hands, whether or not all hands are currently on deck.
I don't mean to undersell these injuries. Losing both Davenport and Rankins for the year on the heels of a likely last-second loss of homefield advantage to their most complete in-conference competition definitely does feel a lot like the Saints stubbed the hell out of a toe or two while stumbling around recovering from a stomach-churning gut punch.
Still, the truth of the matter is that this team already passed its most trying and torturous test with flying covers. The defense held up its end of the bargain when it largely served as Teddy Bridgewater’s emergency floatation device as he soaked in the sun during an undefeated stretch as the starting quarterback. Now, it is the turn of an offense that just smacked around the best defense in football like it refused to pay its gambling debts, despite their most recurring matchup nightmare looking as though he was busy daydreaming, to pick up the slack.
If the rest of the linebackers get healthy enough to free up the dog that is Demario Davis, a lesser sheltered secondary gets its shit together, and Drew Brees continues creating chemistry by making good on the disguised blessing that was a throwing arm made fresh by over a month free of football then offsetting a decided drop in quarterback pressures shouldn't be a remotely unreasonable ask. Two of the three were presumed strengths of this team before the season even started, so it's quite fitting that they'll have to show exactly why for the New Orleans Saints to prove themselves to their fullest potential as they approach the postseason.