Fairley’s absence would be much less damaging than Unger’s

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Dec 18, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; New Orleans Saints defensive tackle Nick Fairley (90) against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Saints defeated the Cardinals 48-41. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 18, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; New Orleans Saints defensive tackle Nick Fairley (90) against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Saints defeated the Cardinals 48-41. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /
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Nick Fairley’s potential absence due to a heart condition is grave and worrying, most pressingly for Fairley himself. But the New Orleans Saints are actually well prepared to handle his absence.

When news hit that Nick Fairley was undergoing new tests on his heart, widespread panic hit the New Orleans Saints fanbase. And in so far as we’re talking about a heart issue here, I think that panic is warranted.

But to say that the Saints are screwed without Fairley is ridiculous. Sure, he’s one of the best defenders on this defense. Everyone knows Cam Jordan is the top dog, but Delvin Breaux is also a more important player than Fairley. The hope is that the same is true for Lattimore. Kenny Vaccaro is a more important. Dannell Ellerbe, though injury history can hardly allow the label “important”, is one of the best players on the entire team when healthy.

I don’t mean to say that Fairley isn’t important. He is. On a defense that’s so stuck in the league’s cellar, anyone that can contribute positively is important. But you can’t, for example, compare his absence to Unger’s. The Saints have more than enough solid options behind Fairley on the chart.

As it stood, the Saints could have had a problem getting their best players on the field at DT. Sheldon Rankins deserves playing time, and the more he gets the faster he’ll develop. The same is true for David Onyemata. And Tyeler Davison was set to be the breakout player of 2017 before an early-season injury limited his production.

And this is all, mind you, under the assumption that Fairley does miss time. There’s been a report going around from a third-party doctor that prescribes optimism. And while that report is purely speculative, it’s likewise speculative for us to say how long Fairley will be out, or if he’ll miss any time at all.

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