Saints soldier on with injury-depleted secondary

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Ken Crawley, Michael Crabtree

Ken Crawley, an undrafted Saints rookie cornerback, could not prevent Raiders wide receiver Michael Crabtree’s game-winning two-point conversion catch (Photo: Parker Waters).

NEW ORLEANS — Defensive back has become an endangered species for the winless New Orleans Saints, which does not bode well for a talent- and depth-challenged unit going into Monday night’s nationally-televised clash against the Atlanta Falcons at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Currently on injured reserve are cornerbacks P.J. Williams (concussion), Damian Swann (abdominal), Kyle Wilson (torn labrum) and Tony Carter (undisclosed injury), safety Jamarca Sanford (undisclosed issue) and S/CB Jimmy Pruitt (knee).

Cornerback Delvin Breaux is sidelined through the middle of October with a broken left fibula and remains on the active 53-man roster. Veteran cornerback Keenan Lewis remains a street free agent after being released during training camp because of various nagging injuries.

Williams. a third-round pick in 2015, is the latest to go down after suffering a potentially serious head injury during Sunday’s 16-13 loss against the New York Giants. He was placed on season-ending IR while dealing with a severe concussion.

Breaux and Williams entered the season as the starters in the team’s base 4-3 defense. Team officials had hoped Lewis could overcome injuries and return to being the player they originally signed to a five-year, $25.5 million contract in March 2013.

After coming off active-PUP status entering training camp, Lewis practiced once and returned to the sideline to continue rehabilitation. On Aug. 20, he was released, leaving behind $7.25 million in dead money this season ($3.65M) and next ($3.6M) and a sizable hole in the secondary.

Consequently, Saints general manager Mickey Loomis and coach Sean Payton have had to piece together a secondary in-season that now includes journeyman cornerbacks Sterling Moore and B.W. Webb and a pair of undrafted rookies Ken Crawley and De’Vante Harris.

Crawley has been victimized for a winning 2-point conversion by Raiders wide receiver Michael Crabtree in Game 1 and a crucial 34-yard catch on third down by Giants’ wide receiver Victor Cruz that set up their winning 23-yard field goal as time expired in Game 2.

Compounding matters is the Saints defense has been unable to muster a steady, disruptive pass rush this season with only two sacks through two games, only one from a frontline player (DE Cameron Jordan).

Despite the personnel problems facing defensive coordinator Dennis Allen, the Saints have yielded just one touchdown pass this season after surrendering an NFL-record 45 TD passes and a league-record 116.1 passer rating last season.

Oakland quarterback Derek Carr and Giants quarterback Eli Manning have combined for a 101.6 passer rating in the first two games.

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has posted a passer rating of at least 100.0 against New Orleans in four consecutive games. He currently leads all NFL quarterbacks with a stellar 121.4 passer rating and hopes to build on that number with the help of a receiving corps that features wide receivers Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu and Justin Hardy and tight end Jacob Tamme.

The league’s 31st-ranked defensive unit and patchwork secondary stand in Ryan’s way.

NOTE: Strong safety Kenny Vaccaro continues to nurse an injured ankle. His status for Monday night could come down to a game-time decision. … Two other [projected defensive starters also are sidelined with injuries — LB Dannell Ellerbe (hip) and DT Sheldon Rankins (broken leg).

* PPF — In memory of Peter Paul Finney (1927-2016).


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Brian Allee-Walsh

Brian Allee-Walsh

sportsNOLAtv//USA Today//Biloxi Sun-Herald

Allee-Walsh joined in November 2009 after spending 32-plus years with The Times-Picayune, the last 23 years covering the New Orleans Saints and NFL on a full-time basis. Prior to that, Allee-Walsh worked as the Public Relations Director for the Triple A New Orleans Pelicans (1977). A native of Seattle, Wash., the 64-year-old Allee-Walsh grew up in Indianapolis, Ind. He graduated from Brebeuf Jesuit High SchooI (Indianapolis) in 1970 and Indiana University in 1975 with a B.A. in Journalism. Allee-Walsh is married to Jennie, a native New Orleanian, and graduate of Isadore Newman School and Indiana University. They have three…

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