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'Next Man Up' Challenges Abound for Suspension and Injury-Plagued Saints

Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo may have been the more seasoned option to replace Joe Vitt during a six-week suspension, but his new Saints defense requires all of his attention (Photo: Parker Waters).Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo may have been the more seasoned option to replace Joe Vitt during a six-week suspension, but his new Saints defense requires all of his attention (Photo: Parker Waters).

NEW ORLEANS -- Now that the New Orleans Saints have put a plan in motion to pass the baton from one interim coach (Joe Vitt) to another (Aaron Kromer) at 12:01 a.m. on Aug. 31, we can get on with the business at hand.

And that is putting the best possible 53-man roster on the field to open the regular season against the Washington Redskins on Sept. 9 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Right now, that 53 is anyone's guess because the roster is very fluid due to a passel of injuries at linebacker and wide receiver.

The best thing -- I repeat -- the best thing the Saints can accomplish in these last two exhibition games has nothing to do with Xs and Os or Ws and Ls and has everything to do with staying injury-free against the Houston Texans and Tennessee Titans.

If the Black and Gold can escape without any serious injuries, they will have been victorious in my book regardless what the scoreboard says.

As it is, their depth at linebacker already has been compromised with the season-long loss of Jonathan Vilma (suspension) and others for varied lenths of times -- Chris Chamberlain (season-ending knee surgery), Curtis Lofton (hamstring), David Hawthorne (minor knee surgery) and Roman Humber (3-game suspension).

Their popular catch-phrase "next man up'' is being severely tested during the preseason and even applies to the coaching staff where Kromer will handle the head reins for Vitt who has handled the head reins for Sean Payton.

Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.

With regards to placing Kromer in charge during Vitt's absence, I can't find any fault with the decision by GM Mickey Loomis.

That said, Kromer would not have been my choice and it has nothing to do with him per se. He seems to be NFL head coaching material from everything I gather. He certainly has distinguished himself in New Orleans, overseeing the running game and coaching the offensive line.

My "next man up'' would have been first-year defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, the former head coach of the St. Louis Rams. Why? Because he has been there and done that for three seasons in St. Louis.

But, it makes perfect sense to keep Spags focused on a unit that is still learning his system and currently riddled by injury. It also makes perfect sense to keep Pete Carmichael focused solely on the offense, leaving Kromer as the next obvious choice as the "next man up.''

Off the field, the football operations will be without a key man as Loomis will begin serving his eight-game suspension effective at 12:01 a.m. on Aug. 31 for his role in the Bounty scandal. That GM void will be filled by the team of Ryan Pace, Khai Harley and Rick Reiprish, all sound football and personnel men.

So as the preseason winds down on what has been the most tumultuous offseason in franchise history, one can only wonder what the regular season has in store for the Black and Gold?

"Do Your Job!''

"Next Man up!''

Whatever happens beyond the bounty – the good, bad and all things in between – promises to be memorable.

Buckle up, Who Dat Nation. I believe we're all in for a wild ride.

 

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