The New Orleans Saints suffered another unneeded blow to the defense. Outside linebacker Will Smith, the longest tenured Saint, sustained a knee injury and is out for the rest of season. Smith was making the transition to the 3-4 outside linebacker after playing his whole career at 4-3 defensive end. Though Smith was having his issues with the transition, his loss is yet another another blow to the already thin supply of outside linebackers.
Smith joins Martez Wilson, Junior Galette, and Victor Butler as linebackers that have sustained injuries this off season. However, Wilson and Galette should be back for the regular season opener. It is very disconcerting that both will see their first action starting after having no real game experience this off season. At this point, both will be expected to come in and play well as they will be the most experienced players at the position.
Smith’s injury will open the door for some no name to make a name for himself. This includes undrafted free agent Eric Martin and 7th round pick Rufus Johnson. Martin has shown flashes of big play ability in training camp and Johnson was very productive in college albeit at Tarleton State. Johnson has all the measurables that any NFL team is looking for, but is still a very raw talent with a lot to learn about playing football. The only other outside linebacker on the roster is Baraka Atkins, a 3rd year player from the University of Miami.
This is nothing new for Ryan who saw injuries to 7 starters on his defense while he coached the Dallas Cowboys. The Saints do have a little bit of cap space to work with to possibly bring in a veteran to compete with the younger guys on the roster. Hopefully Rob Ryan can work his magic and put out a semi legitimate defense on the field. Luckily for Ryan, he will have Drew Brees and the Saints’ offense putting up enough points to make his job easier. Nonetheless, it will be an uphill battle for Ryan for the long season up ahead.