Have you noticed? Chicken Little Who Dats have proclaimed doom and gloom for the New Orleans Saints over the team's recent rash of injuries. Is the team worried? If recent history tells us anything, the Saints will simply audible to another well thought-out plan.
An audible is a new or substitute offensive play. The Saints have taken this word and made it a philosophy.
Friday, Aug. 17: The Saints host the Jacksonville Jaguars in a preseason game. It concludes with the loss of three linebackers and a receiver. Chris Chamberlain, brought in to help new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's new defense, suffers a torn ACL in his knee, ending his season. Middle linebacker Curtis Lofton suffers a high ankle sprain, which will keep Lofton out of the final two preseason games. Linebacker David Hawthorne suffers a torn meniscus. Hawthorne will need surgery, and there's a good chance he'll miss at least the regular season opener against the Washington Redskins Sept. 9.
So the Saints call an audible. Jonathan Casillas, you're now a go in the starting lineup at weak side linebacker, replacing David Hawthorne. Ramon Humber, you're a go at middle linebacker, responsible for relaying the defensive play calls for each snap. Wait — double audible, as Humber must serve a three-game suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy. So the Saints front office makes a trade with the Seattle Seahawks for linebacker Barrett Ruud, a six-year starter who led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in tackles from 2007-2010.
Wide receiver Andy Tanner suffers a left ankle injury joining fellow receivers Adrian Arrington and Nick Toon on the injury list. It's audible time. Welcome Greg Camarillo, a veteran receiver who spent the offseason working out with Drew Brees in San Diego.
Wednesday, Aug. 22: The team announced Humber suffered a hamstring injury and won't return until September. Time for another audible as Lawrence Wilson moves to middle linebacker.
"Next man up" is the mantra used inside the Saints training facility. When you're called into duty, you step up and do your job. That applies to the coaching staff as well. Sean Payton was suspended for the season, so the Saints audibled to Joe Vitt, the well-respected assistant head coach, to lead the team during its offseason. Wait — Vitt must serve six games as punishment in the bounty deal, so time for another audible. Hello, Aaron Kromer, the Saints offensive line coach and running game coordinator, who received the big headsets last week.
"Coach Payton has laid a successful foundation here, and our jobs are to make sure we keep moving in that direction," Kromer said. How will he do as head coach for six games? Time will tell, but under Kromer, the Saints offensive line has had a player from each position make the Pro Bowl.
The Saints under Payton have shown that the team plans for everything. Brees walks up to the line saying "kill-kill" to change the play. The defense checks into a better coverage before the snap. The team's front office makes a personnel move or a coach adds responsibilities. The Saints are calling an audible for which they've likely already prepared. Now we just have to see if it all works.