The nicks and bruises that kept the Saints’ starting secondary off the field last week against the New England Patriots might actually be a positive.
Keenan Lewis is sure of it.
Now that Lewis, Kenny Vaccaro and Delvin Breaux are back to full speed, and Brandon Browner appears to be on his way back soon, the Saints’ starting secondary is headed in the right direction health-wise, but a week with all five out could help the Saints down the line.
“It’s a great opportunity for some of the young guys to get that experience,” Lewis said. “Last year, a couple of guys went down and there were new people in, and they really didn’t know how to adjust. So to see them go against quality opponents like Brady and those guys definitely helps them get ready.”
The injury bug hit the Saints’ secondary hard in 2014, and when players like Jairus Byrd, Rafael Bush and Kenny Vaccaro went down, some of the replacements had trouble adjusting.
But on Saturday, several of the guys who will make up the Saints’ second line of defense got a full half of work against Tom Brady andJimmy Garoppolo. Young cornerbacks like Stanley Jean-Baptisteand Damian Swann were thrown into the fire.
“You’re seeing Stanley get more work, you’re seeing Swann get more work. … you’re seeing a lot of those guys competing for playing time get more reps,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “Now, all of a sudden, Keenan’s back, and there’ll be a handful of these guys that are gradually working their way back into the lineup.”
The flip side, obviously, is whether or not the time away will hurt the Saints’ starting four, plus Breaux, when Byrd makes his eventual return.
Lewis, who said the injury that kept him out of Saturday’s game was minor and wouldn’t have kept him out during the regular season, isn’t worried.
“No, I think our top five has been playing in the league for a long time, so they know how to adjust, they know how to prepare, they know how to get ready for a big game,” Lewis said.