The New Orleans Saints listed their final injury report before facing the Minnesota Vikings today — officially ruling out linebacker Jonathan Casillas and running back Mark Ingram — but their absence from the lineup shouldn’t cause more than a minor hiccup.
Casillas has been a favorite of defensive coordinator Gregg Williams at weakside linebacker since his stand out preseason performances last year.
He was briefly awarded the starting spot, but he suffered a foot injury during the last game of the preseason and he was placed on injured reserve.
He has started four games for the Saints this season and has accounted for 43 tackles and three sacks.
Williams loves to deploy him off the edge to rush the quarterback, but his knee injury will keep him sidelined for the second straight game.
Wiley veteran Scott Shanle, who has started twelve games this season, will be the starter once more on the weakside.
Shanle doesn’t often get too much credit for his play, but he has totaled 57 tackles, one sack, and an interception already this season.
Starting opposite of Shanle on the strong side will be Jo-Lonn Dunbar, who drew high praise for his consistent level of play at middle linebacker while filling in for an injured Jonathan Vilma.
Vilma has been listed as questionable for the Vikings this week after playing last week against the Titans.
The Saints may be taking extra precautions with his surgically repaired knee, but more than an expected amount of swelling has kept him limited in practice this week.
He will likely be a game time decision, and if he can’t go then the Saints may decide to move Dunbar back to middle linebacker and use a rotation of Ramon Humber and Will Herring on the outside.
Dunbar, who has also started twelve games this season, is perhaps the Saints best all-around linebacker.
He plays the run well, is smart and aggressive, but also can drop into coverage and be effective when called upon.
He has 67 tackles, one sack, and two forced fumbles this season.
Rookie running back Mark Ingram will also miss his second straight game while he recovers from a mild case of turf toe that he suffered against the Detroit Lions.
New Orleans has the luxury to choose to be cautious with Ingram. They have already secured a playoff berth and have three other talented, healthy running backs on the roster.
Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles, and Chris Ivory will round out the three running backs the Saints will have at their disposal against Minnesota.
Thomas will likely be named the game day starter, but it’s Ivory who will see the bulk of the carries.
Last seasons leading rusher, Ivory missed the first six games of the season on the physically unable to perform list, and he has since been inactive for most of the Saints other games — taking a back seat to Ingram.
But last week against the Titans he looked more like the 2009 version of himself as he ran with great burst down hill through would be tacklers, racking up 53 yards on thirteen totes.
Ivory showcased his speed with a wicked 25 yard run right through the jaws of Tennessee’s defense.
He seems to be heating up at the right time for the Saints, who could be staring down a potential NFC title game against the Packers at Lambeau Field.