New Orleans Saints: Injuries pave the way for Manti Te’o’s return

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - NOVEMBER 24: Head coach Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints looks on prior to the game against the Carolina Panthers at Mercedes Benz Superdome on November 24, 2019 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - NOVEMBER 24: Head coach Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints looks on prior to the game against the Carolina Panthers at Mercedes Benz Superdome on November 24, 2019 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /
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Manti Te’o will rejoin the New Orleans Saints in 2019 after the list of injuries to Saints’ linebackers grows.  Kiko Alonso is the latest Saint to suffer a setback.

Injuries have plagued the New Orleans Saints defense this season, opening the door for the seven-year veteran’s return.  Having spent 2017 and 2018 with the Saints, Te’o was an unsigned free agent heading into week 14.

That said, Kiko Alonso has been listed as day-to-day with a thigh bruise, putting his status in doubt for Sunday’s matchup with the San Francisco 49ers.  Sidelined with a knee injury, AJ Klein is expected to be listed as questionable at best.

Having lost Alex Anzalone to season-ending shoulder surgery after the Week 2 loss to the Los Angeles Rams, the Saints linebacker corps grew even thinner in Week 5 when rookie Kaden Elliss went down with a knee injury.

Craig Robertson has been a consistent presence during his four years with the Saints and has once again been called-on to contribute.  Robertson tallied a season-high in snaps during last week’s Thanksgiving day win versus the Atlanta Falcons.

Te’o figures to bring depth and experience to a dwindling linebacker corps. In 2017 and 2018, Te’o recorded 54 solo tackles, 26 assists and 7 tackles for loss through 21 games. It’s not amazing, but it’s certainly commendable for the snaps he was given.

While Robertson and Demario Davis will see the majority of snaps, if Te’o sees playing time with the Saints defense, expect it to be as a run-stuffing linebacker on short-yardage and early down situations.

It won’t be ideal having to lineup Te’o in third-and-long situations. The Saints would likely opt to add an additional body in the secondary.

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With the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoff race on the line, against a run-first 49ers offense, Te’o’s skill set is ideal for the match-up.  Whether it’s in run defense or on special teams, the Saints can use all the help they can get from a veteran linebacker.

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