Brian Allee-Walsh

Look for injured Sheldon Rankins, Saints’ first-round pick, to be back sooner than later

New England Patriots guard Joe Thuney (62) blocks New Orleans Saints defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins (99) during the first half of a preseason game Thursday, Aug. 11, 2016, in Foxborough, Mass.
New England Patriots guard Joe Thuney (62) blocks New Orleans Saints defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins (99) during the first half of a preseason game Thursday, Aug. 11, 2016, in Foxborough, Mass. AP

Good break?

Bad break?

Clean break?

There are several ways to look at Sheldon Rankins’ broken left fibula suffered during practice Monday at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.

Yes, the promising New Orleans Saints rookie defensive tackle is expected to miss between six to eight weeks after undergoing surgery Tuesday by Dr. Robert Anderson in Charlotte, North Carolina.

But at least it’s not a season-ending injury and doesn’t involve the knee.

In fact, depending on Anderson’s prognosis, I suspect the Saints will carry Rankins on their season-opening 53-man roster in anticipation he will be ready to play by early to mid-October. If things go well, he could play on Oct. 2 at San Diego or after the bye week against the three-time defending NFC South champion Carolina Panthers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Oct. 16.

The worst-case scenario is he could be placed on the injured reserve/designated for return list, which would prevent his game participation until Oct. 30 against the Seattle Seahawks in the Superdome.

Again, look for Rankins’ return sooner than later.

In the meantime, it’s “next man up” up for a Saints defense is attempting to return to respectability under the stewardship of coordinator Dennis Allen after several historically bad seasons. No different than in June when the Saints lost second-year linebacker-rush end Hau’oli Kikaha to a season-ending knee injury. No different than losing second-year strongside linebacker Stephone Anthony for several weeks.

Losing Rankins, the 12th overall pick in the April draft, for an extended period certainly doesn’t help matters. But again, it could have been worse.

Plus, it appears Allen has several options to hold down the fort in the middle until Rankins gets back on two healthy legs. Veteran free agent defensive tackle Nick Fairley could pick up extra snaps in the interim, along with Bobby Richardson or maybe fourth-round pick David Onyemata.

Where in the world is fourth-year defensive tackle John Jenkins (82nd overall pick in 2013 draft) when you need him?

Rush end Cameron Jordan could also move inside in pass situations, though coach Sean Payton would like to keep Jordan and Kasim Edebali coming off the edge as often as possible.

So while Rankins’ absence will be felt, the Saints are less a team without left tackle Terron Armstead, who has returned to practice and is expected to play against the Texans on Saturday night at NRG Stadium in Houston after missing the first two weeks of training camp dealing with a “soft tissue’’ issue.

Honestly, if I were a dues-paying member of Who Dat Nation, I’d be more concerned with the health status of veteran cornerback Keenan Lewis and the durability of oft-injured safety Jairus Byrd and linebacker Dannell Ellerbe.

In the case of Sheldon Rankins, he’ll be back after a short break.

Brian Allee-Walsh is a longtime Saints reporter based in New Orleans. He can be reached at sports@sunherald.com.

  Comments