Saints’ banged-up secondary bracing for Falcons
The Saints have enough difficulty slowing down Matt Ryan and
Atlanta’s passing game when their defensive backfield is at full
For Sunday’s game in Atlanta, with first place in the NFC South
on the line, New Orleans could be forced to thrust a couple
reserves into more prominent roles in its pass defense.
”We’re still trying to see who’s going to be back, but I don’t
think we’re worried at all,” Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins said.
”We’ve got some young guys that can play. … We know (the
Falcons) have some threats, but we trust in our guys to prepare and
get it done the same way.”
When New Orleans practiced on Wednesday, starting cornerback
Tracy Porter and nickel back Patrick Robinson both stood off to the
side, watching without pads.
Porter hurt his neck last Sunday while making a tackle against
Tampa Bay. Robinson is having stomach pain.
Coach Sean Payton hopes one, if not both, will feel well enough
to play in Atlanta on Sunday. In the meantime, though, veteran
cornerback Leigh Torrence is working as a first-team cornerback
along with starter Jabari Greer, while rookie Johnny Patrick is
lining up in formations with five defensive backs.
Torrence and Patrick could be called upon to play key roles in
stopping an offense that not only runs the ball well, but has a
number of solid receiving targets including tight end Tony Gonzalez
and receivers Roddy White, Harry Douglas and rookie Julio
”There’s a lot that goes into defending a team that has weapons
like Atlanta and then you throw in the tight end and the running
game,” Payton said. ”That’s not even getting into some of the
logistics we’re looking at” with injuries.
”I’m optimistic about Tracy. We’ll see where Patrick’s at. The
other players got good work in today and that’s kind of the way our
league is,” Payton continued. ”The next guy’s up and he’s getting
the practice (snaps) and you just have to be able to adjust.”
Patrick has been inactive in five of nine regular season games,
including the past four. When he has played, it has been on special
Now he could wind up seeing his first significant action against
Ryan and Co.
”It’s going to be a challenge regardless of who goes out
there,” Jenkins said.
Patrick is ”going to have a challenge and we think he’s
ready,” Jenkins added. ”He sat back for a while, learned a lot.
He’s going to have some challenges in this game, but he’s got
confidence that he can overcome them.”
Torrence said Patrick has done everything asked of him since he
was drafted in the third round last spring.
”We’re not worried about any one person because you’re not
going to go out there by yourself,” he said. ”We’re all going to
be out there together on Sunday, and what better time to get out
there than a divisional game on the road in Atlanta?”
Meanwhile, the Saints also have the option of moving Jenkins to
a cornerback spot as they see fit. Jenkins was drafted as a
cornerback out of Ohio State in the first round of 2009 and the
Saints have relied on his versatility before.
Torrence, now in his seventh season out of Stanford, also has
shown he is comfortable playing various roles in the defensive
backfield. He’s had a solid season so far, highlighted by his
interception return for a touchdown against Indianapolis three
”Our secondary’s always been one where we had a lot of
versatile players, guys that can go inside or outside or play
safety,” Torrence said. ”That’s just part of being in the NFL,
that you may be called to do something different from any given
Notes: In addition to Porter and Robinson, LB Jon Vilma (knee),
DE Turk McBride (ankle) and LT Jermon Bushrod (stomach virus) also
missed practice. … RB Mark Ingram (heel) returned to practice on
limited basis, while RB Chris Ivory (hamstring) also was