There is nothing more teams dread then preseason injuries. Players have to get game ready for the upcoming season so they must play. Coaches must play them to get an idea of needs work and what does not. While the records and scores following the exhibition games are not real, injuries sustained in them are very real.
Monday Saints assistant head coach Joe Vitt revealed that the dreaded injury bug basically had a buffet on the Saints linebackers as starters Curtis Lofton and David Hawthorne had been injured Friday against Jacksonville becoming the second and third linebackers hurt in that game.
Fans and media clearly saw the second quarter injury to linebacker Chris Chamberlain. An ugly looking injury that we found out Saturday morning turned out to be an ACL tear in his knee ending Chamberlain's season.
"Right now we don't have somebody in the building that has Chambo's knowledge of the defense, could really play a SAM (strong side linebacker), MIC (middle linebacker) or a WIL (weak side linebacker) with good efficiency and production," Vitt said of the loss on Saturday. "Had great communication skills with his teammates, helped them get lined up, and really share his information." Chamberlain spent four years in St. Louis was familiar with defensive Steve Spagnuolo's defense and was expected to sort of help coach on the field.
Lofton suffered a high ankle sprain while Hawthorne sustained a meniscus tear that required surgery. "It's speculation now that they will be out for the first game," Vitt said Monday when asked if the two starters good be ready for Week 1. "We certainly think Curtis will be ready for the first game. The diagnosis for David has been encouraging. He hurt it early in the (Jaguars) game, and he played on it. He's got a chance to be back for that game."
The Saints this past off-season sought to upgrade the position group's athleticism and play making abilities but singing Lofton, Hawthorne and Chamberlain. What is left is two of the three starters from last season in Scott Shanle and Jonathan Casillas, and a player who is due to be suspended for the first three games of the season in Ramon Humber due to violating the league's banned substance policy.
REGULAR SEASON MODE
The Saints are now in a regular season mode meaning that the practices are tailored more towards preparing for an opponent. The team actually began preparing for the Washington Redskins who they will open up the regular season against on September 9.
The Redskins will come in with quarterback Robert Griffin III or RG3 as he is known and is a player the Saints feel you need to start getting for sooner rather than later. The Saints actually began getting ready for RG3 right after the draft and its something they did last season after Carolina selected Cam Newton in the NFL Draft.
"He's a quarterback and Cam's a quarterback that brings a whole different skill level to their offenses. And really at the end of the day when you have those guys in the shotgun you're defending six eligable recievers now five and it brings a whole new aspect to the game," Vitt said of the challenges a mobile quarterback can bring. "As soon as we found out you know we knew that we were playing Washington the schedule hadn't come out yet but we started studying film on him. You have to."
Tuesday the team will turn their attention to the Houston Texans their next opponent for the game on Saturday night in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
TURF TO BLAME
Assistant head coach Joe Vitt was not happy with the team's tackling against Jacksonville. Monday Vitt brought up the dreaded turf monster as a possible reason Saints defenders looking so poorly in trying to stop the Jaguars offense. Well he made a mention of it and stopped well short of blaming it as the reason for poor tackling.
"You know every year we put a new surface down in the down in the dome. We have done this in the past and uh I would have probably served our football team a little bit better if i had taken them in for a practice and felt the new turf," Vitt said Monday about his team's first experience on this season's surface. A surface that Jacksonville head coach Mike Mulrakey complained to Vitt about in pregame. "Mike I don't really don't care about your players falling down its not my responsibility but I do think that we got our cleats stuck a couple times. We probably should have had a practice there first. That being said the tackling has been addressed. The tackling has got to get better."
RAMON HUMBER YOUR UP
Ramon Humber for at least this game and probably the preseason finale will be the Saints middle linebacker as Curtis Lofton recovers from the high ankle sprain that has him sidelined. Humber played 16 games for Indianapolis in 2009, Three for the Saints and two for the Colts in 2010 while coming back to New Orleans in 2011 to play 13 games starting in three of those.
"He's a smart kid. He's played for us," said Vitt describing how time and time again the team's personnel department kept coming back to Humber despite bringing in other players for evaluation . "We trust him on special team. He's an outstanding special teams player and then started playing some positive snaps on defense for us a year ago. He's quick. He's got range. He's smart. His teammates respect him so he kind of fits right into the program."
Humber this preseason has 21 tackles with 15 of those being solo stops to go along with a sack.
"He's been in the system now for about three weeks. We'll do everything that we can to help simplify it for him. Try to do the things that he does best and not burden him with too many calls," said Vitt of how they'll move forward with the third year player and do so without pity. "I don't think that they want to cancel the game. I think the game is going to be played. They're going to expect us to be there at seven o'clock with our time so we'll go with what we have."
Humber will be the one relaying the defensive play call to the team from coaches as he'll wear the earpiece in his helmet. "You hear something in your ear then it comes out your mouth and you just relate it to the defense. It's not nuclear science," said Vitt to those thinking things could be complicated without having Lofton in there. We haven't asked him one time to find a cure while he's been here. Just get it in your ear and spit it out."