The Panthers’ starting left tackle and two players who have served as first-string guards will not be able to play because of injuries when Carolina (3-4-1) hosts the Saints (3-4) on Thursday night.
Byron Bell is out with a knee injury he sustained in Carolina’s 13-9 loss at home to Seattle on Sunday, and he will cede his spot protecting the blind side of quarterback Cam Newton to Canadian rookie David Foucault, the Panthers announced.
The duties of right guard Trai Turner — the rookie third-round draft selection and former LSU Tiger who started in three games for the Panthers before he hurt a knee in a loss at Green Bay on Oct. 19 — will be assumed by veteran Fernando Velasco.
And the responsibilities of left guard Amini Silatolu, who opened the year as the starter until straining a calf in a tie against Cincinnati on Oct. 12, will be shouldered by undrafted rookie Andrew Norwell.
All of that creates a situation a surging Saints pass rush will try to exploit. New Orleans has sacked opposing quarterbacks seven times the last two weeks after getting that many in the first five games of the season. That’s facilitated the Saints’ taking the ball away from their opponents five times the last two weeks after getting only two of those plays in the first five weeks of the season.
Other players the Panthers have ruled out from facing the Saints are cornerback Bene Benwikere (ankle), wide receiver Philly Brown (concussion) and running back Fozzy Whittaker (thigh). Safety Thomas DeCoud (hamstring) and defensive tackle kawann Short (ankle) are questionable. Tackle Nate Chandler (thigh), running back DeAngelo Williams (ankle) and linebacker Jason Williams (hip) are probable.
The Saints and the Panthers are both in the NFC South. The Saints would pass up the Panthers for first place in the division with a victory.