Saints: Breaux, Rankins, Moore return from injury; Vaccaro, Ellerbe, Armstead sit
By Ty Anania
A number of key contributors for the New Orleans Saints returned to practice this Wednesday, including Delvin Breaux, Sheldon Rankins, and Sterling Moore.
Breaux and Rankins are both returning from broken legs. Rankins has been practicing for a few weeks but was placed on IR at the beginning of the season, so he is only now eligible to return. Payton was non-committal about Rankins’s availability, but if things go well, he should suit up for the Saints’ matchup with the 49ers.
He’ll provide a boost to an improving defensive line. He will likely trade snaps at DT with Nick Fairley on early downs. In passing downs, expect to see the two lined up alongside each other. The Saints have shown an improved pass rush recently, but they’ll need to put together a complete game against Carlos Hyde and a mobile QB like Colin Kaepernick.
Breaux’s return is possibly the most significant reason for optimism for the rest of the Saints’ season. Breaux is a Pro-Bowl level CB. His cover skills should allow Dennis Allen to really open up this defense.
It’s unclear if he’ll be ready to play, as he suffered his injury a few weeks after Rankins. It may make sense for the team to be patient with their star corner, but Breaux recently said he feels ready to play. We’ll see.
Sterling Moore’s absence was quietly a huge deal for this defense. A last minute signing before Week 1, Moore has been one the most pleasant surprises of this season. He’s been easily the Saints best CB, since P.J. Williams went down. If he and Breaux can both return this week, we may finally see what all the excitement was about this offseason.
Ellerbe and Armstead’s absence from practice is hopefully just precautionary. Ellerbe played a limited snap count against Seattle, and Armstead looked hobbled all game. I expect them to play on Sunday.
Kenny Vaccaro’s absence, a knee injury, is more troubling. We’ll wait until later in the week before panicking.
Finally, James Laurinaitis also missed practice. As he’s been demoted to a special teams role, the impact will be negligible. Jake Lampman, another special teams contributor, returned to practice.