Veteran Saints running back Pierre Thomas will miss his second consecutive game due to a rib and shoulder injury when New Orleans (3-4) visits the Carolina Panthers (3-4-1) on Thursday night.
Two others who will be sidelined for New Orleans are linebacker David Hawthorne (hand) and fullback Austin Johnson (knee), the Saints said Wednesday. The Saints listed four players as questionable: tight end Jimmy Graham (shoulder), center Jonathan Goodwin (knee/ankle), linebacker Kyle Knox (ankle) and running back Khiry Robinson (forearm).
Thomas had 336 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns before hurting himself in a defeat at Detroit on Oct. 19 and then sitting out the Saints’ win at home over Green Bay on Sunday night.
The good news for the Saints is that leading rusher Mark Ingram tops the NFL in yards per carry (5.7); and he’s scored four touchdowns, which is tied for first on the team. Also, backup Travaris Cadet did adequately against Green Bay filling in for Thomas in third-down situations, where running backs frequently are in pass protection or running routes.
Hawthorne will miss the Carolina game he had interception against Green Bay, which was his first pick since joining the Saints in 2012. Under him on the depth chart is linebacker Ramon Humber, whose major contribution against Green Bay was ensuring the Saints recovered a surprise onside kick relatively early in the game.
Johnson has played at fullback in all seven of the Saints’ games this season. He’ll be replaced in the line-up by Erik Lorig, who appeared in his first game for the Saints against Green Bay.
Lorig came to the Saints this offseason after spending four years in Tampa Bay, but he missed the team’s first six contests because of an ankle he hurt in an intrasquad scrimmage in West Virginia on Aug. 2.
Robinson and Goodwin each missed the Green Bay game for the Saints but were limited in practice all week. As for Knox, this will be the sixth time this season he is inactive, but he was able to practice all week in a limited capacity.
Graham, who has beenlimited in practice all week, leads the Saints with 435 receiving yards on 39 receptions, and, like Ingram, he has four touchdowns. He has played in every game this season despite being questionable for the last three outings after hurting a shoulder in an Oct. 5 win at home over Tampa Bay.