The New Orleans Saints might have some shuffling to do in the secondary soon.
Starting cornerback Keenan Lewis is close to returning from surgery on his hip.
And although Lewis won’t play 100 percent of the snaps right away, he will be a factor as soon as he’s healthy and ready to go. Lewis, who has recovered faster than initial projections, hoped to play against Carolina and stretched before the game, but the Saints held him out of action.
“I do see Keenan having a real good chance to play this week,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “We’ve got to be smart with his first week back, just with a total pitch count, but it’s a good problem to have.”
Lewis’ return could cause some interesting problems for the Saints’ defensive staff. Delvin Breaux has been the team’s top cornerback through the first three weeks, and rookie nickel back Damian Swann has shown some good signs.
Bringing Lewis back could open possibilities for the Saints to scheme Brandon Browner, who struggled in zone coverage against the Panthers, into man-to-man situations against the big, physical receivers he’s best at playing.
“We spent about 20 minutes discussing it last night, a half an hour in our staff meeting, and obviously, we’ll have more than one defensive package,” Payton said. “We’ve got to find a way to put our best guys out there, and then depending on whether it’s first or second down, or possibly the third down, could change.”
New Orleans will also be watching the recovery of safety Jairus Byrd closely this week. Byrd returned to individual drills last week, an indication that he’s on his way back.
“We haven’t practiced yet,” Payton said. “We’ll know more here in the next couple of days.”