A tight end position that looked like one of the Saints' deepest suddenly finds itself scrambling for answers.
First, Michael Hoomanawanui went down with a season-ending injury against Pittsburgh in the preseason, and then Josh Hill suffered a high ankle sprain against the Oakland Raiders.
Now, New Orleans will likely turn to developmental tight end Chris Manhertz, newly-signed veteran Jake Stoneburner or undrafted rookie Garrett Griffin to fill Hill's role in the offense.
"Our job each week is to get these guys ready for a game plan," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "Whether you’re looking at Chris or the other two young guys, we would have a specific role we think would tailor to their skill set."
Manhertz, who was inactive in Week One after being listed with a head injury in practices, is the only other tight end on the active roster other than Fleener. For a former basketball player from Canisius College (N.Y.), simply making the Saints' 53-man roster out of training camp was a heck of an accomplishment.
"You know what, it really means a lot," Manhertz said. "I worked my tail off to get to this point."
Manhertz, at 6-foot-6, 255 pounds, has the ability to fill Hill or Hoomanawanui's role as a blocker. Fleener, the Saints' prized free agent signing, is the obvious No. 1 receiver at the position now.
"We have his blocking ahead of his pass receiving," Payton said. "The area that we are still working on him is as a route runner. He has strong hands, and he is a pretty good anchor."
Both Stoneburner and Griffin are on the practice squad right now, and the Saints view Griffin as a developmental young player.
But a promotion is only a matter of a split-second decision away, particularly for Stoneburner, a former Ohio State product who caught two touchdown passes for the Miami Dolphins last season.
Stoneburner already has a tight bond with Saints tight end coach Dan Campbell, the man who helped bring him to New Orleans after Hill's injury..
"That was my favorite coach I've ever had, and I would definitely love another opportunity to play under him," Stoneburner said. "I was here in a second."
New Orleans likes Stoneburner's versatility; he's capable of playing fullback and H-back in addition to in-line tight end, a key part of Hill's game as well.
And Stoneburner has NFL experience. Initially given a chance in Green Bay without much reward, Stoneburner's two touchdowns with Miami proved he can help a team in the passing team.
"I hadn't really been able to make any plays yet, I was just playing special teams," Stoneburner said. "Finally, I got a shot and I was able to capitalize. I felt like I showed even if it's a big moment or you just get thrown in there, I'm not going to pee down my leg. I can go do some things."