The Saints tried to fortify their linebacking corps in free agency during the offseason, but the position has not been exempt from the struggles plaguing the team in the early going. In fact, injuries have made the situation at linebacker a difficult one to manage for interim head coach Aaron Kromer.
New Orleans has seven linebackers on its 53-man roster, but only five of them will be available to play in Week Four with the top two weak-side linebackers, David Hawthorne (hamstring) and Jonathan Casillas (neck), sidelined by injuries.
Kromer acknowledged that the injuries have created some vulnerability heading into Week Four.
“Health at linebacker always is a factor because those guys do so many things,” Kromer said. “Not only are they linebackers but they are special-teams players, so it wears thin. We’ve had this throughout the year in the last three games and, obviously, we dress six at times. We dressed five the first week. We just have to deal with it, we just have to overcome it.”
The Saints will get reserve Ramon Humber back from a three-game suspension in Week Four, but the future of Jonathan Vilma (PUP list) remains a mystery, and they lost Chris Chamberlain (ACL tear), a free-agent signee from the Rams who started 13 games last season, before the season even started. While injuries might have affected their performance thus far, the fact is two of GM Mickey Loomis’ major free-agent additions — Hawthorne and MLB Curtis Lofton, who has been off the injury report since Week One — have yet to make the impact they were expected to provide when the team revamped the position, as the Saints’ run defense is ranked last in the league.