Chatting with his backup Tim Lelito recently, Saints center Jonathan Goodwin joked that something more powerful than bad luck had to be at work for him to leave three of his team’s games the past month hurt.
“Who put this voodoo on me?” Lelito recalled Goodwin saying about moving back to New Orleans in June after spending 2006-10 with the Saints and 2011-13 with San Francisco. “I feel bad for him. Guy can’t catch a break.”
However, Goodwin’s struggles to stay on the field for the Saints have given his backup more snaps at center than he expected. And that could soon be handy if Goodwin can’t play when the Saints (2-4) host Green Bay (5-2) on Sunday night and even beyond.
A 13-year NFL veteran, Goodwin has started all six of the Saints’ games at center this season, but he left wins against Minnesota and Tampa Bay on Sept. 21 and Oct. 5 as well as a loss at Detroit this past Sunday with leg injuries. That’s allowed Lelito to accumulate 137 snaps at center in those games.
The Saints on Tuesday bolstered depth in their offensive line Tuesday by signing free-agent guard/center Eric Olsen to the active roster. That could indicate they’re preparing for Goodwin to be unable to play in the immediate future.
The good news is Lelito, in his second year in the NFL and with the Saints, has done relatively well filling in for Goodwin. Though he botched a snap that resulted in a loss of 18 yards on his first regular-season hike, he’s since surrendered only two hits and one hurry on Saints quarterback Drew Brees on 85 plays he’s been in pass protection, according to the website Pro Football Focus.
He’s also graded positively on 52 snaps he’s blocked for the Saints’ 13th-ranked rushing attack, Pro Football Focus said. Officials in Detroit whistled him for a 15-yard illegal blindside block, though that call was questionable in the eyes of many spectators.
Speaking at a community event Tuesday, Lelito credited whatever level of comfort he’s displayed to working closely with Goodwin this season.
“I’ve actually learned a lot (about being) patient because of Goodwin,” Lelito said. “I learned I don’t necessarily have to fly over there, fly over here, because of what the (defensive) look (is) — be patient, let it develop, stuff like that.”
Second-year left tackle Terron Armstead on Tuesday said Lelito had performed exceptionally given that Goodwin has gotten the vast majority of practice snaps with the first-team offense.
“Getting in the huddle, getting up to the line with the game-clock running down — you can’t practice those things until you get into the game, so it’s really tough,” Armstead said.
Armstead and Lelito participated in an NFL-United Way Hometown Huddle Event at the Hispanic Apostolate in Metairie. They were on hand to show youth at the event how to properly use fitness equipment donated by the Saints, among other things.