The New Orleans Saints defense is going through a very difficult season and it turned worse today as they learned that corner back Keenan Lewis (hip/knee) is done for the year.
Evan Woodberry of the Times-Picayune reports that the Saints officially placed Lewis on injured reserve on Thursday. Woodberry added that Lewis will be replaced on the active roster by Chris Owens, who signed by the team on Wednesday night.
This is the second stretch of games that Lewis will miss this year. The 29-year-old missed the first three games of the regular season due to a sports hernia, and when he returned he was limited to what he could do. He then suffered a knee injury in the first half of the Saints’ loss at Washington on Nov. 15.
Lewis, who was the Saints defensive MVP the last two years according to Mike Triplett of ESPN, appeared in six games this year — in the team’s nickel or dime packages. The seven-year pro recorded just six tackles and was credited with two pass defensed.
“I’m just tired of these injuries. They’re killing me,” Lewis said. “But I’m a strong individual. I’ll find a way. It is tough when you think you’re back on track and then you get something like this….
“The stuff I’ve dealt with this whole season, I guess it’s just one of them years where you’re trying to fight for your team, but your body just don’t allow you to. It’s just tough, man. I’m trying to get out of this slump that I’m in, body-wise.”
Without Lewis at full strength, the Saints’ lack of depth in the secondary has been exposed. New Orleans ranks 32nd in the NFL in yards allowed (424.4) and points allowed (31.5). They are on pace to permit the highest opponents’ passer rating in NFL history (116.5). The Saints have given up an NFL high 28 touchdowns through the air and have only recorded four interceptions — three by their defensive backs.
Lewis is under contract with the Saints through 2017 though only a portion of his final year is guaranteed.
Owens, 28, has not played this year as he was placed on injured reserve by the Detroit Lions prior to the start of the season with an unspecified injury before ultimately getting released. The seven-year pro was selected by the Atlanta Falcons in the third round of the 2009 draft. After spending four years with the Falcons, he split time between the Cleveland Browns and Miami Dolphins in 2013 and played for the Kansas City Chiefs last season.
The 5-foot-9, 180-pounder has primarily worked in the slot in recent years. He has 173 tackles and three interceptions in 83 career games.
In another attempt to improve the defense, the Saints recently signed outside linebacker Phillip Hunt and released linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar, according NewOrleansSaints.com.
Hunt appeared in two games earlier this year with the Detroit Lions, compiling seven tackles and one sack. The 29-year-old has appeared in 23 games in his three-year NFL career and has recorded 21.0 tackles and 4.0 sacks. Dunbar had 11 tackles in three games for the Saints.
Head Coach Sean Payton spoke about the team’s two most recent addition during his press conference on Thursday.
“I think, right now, they would be depth moves. We have a little flexibility to do that.”
New Orleans (4-6) travels to Houston for a game against the Texans (5-5) on Sunday. The Saints have lost two straight, surrendering 81 points in those two games, while the Texans have won three in a row and four-of-five.
Houston ranks only No. 20 in the league in scoring at 20.8 points a game, but the Texans do move the ball decently well as they average 357.5 yards a game. Houston has committed 13 turnovers, which includes eight interceptions. However, Brian Hoyer (concussion) is expected to start at quarterback against the Saints. Hoyer has completed 59.5 percent of his passes for 1,704 yards to go along with 13 touchdowns and four interceptions this year.
The good news for the Saints is that their offense has been rolling of late. New Orleans has scored 27 points in four of its last five games and 25.5 points a game. Quarterback Drew Brees has also played better recently, completing 73.5 percent of his passes this month for 1,101 yards to go along with 12 touchdowns and just five interceptions.
While Houston has played better defensively, the Texans still are surrendering 22.5 points a game (t-15th).
[photo by Matt Hazlet/Getty Images]