ProFootballTalk It’ll be much harder for the Saints to install a 3-4 defense if they don’t have guys who can play. Per a league source, linebacker Will Smith is out for the year with a knee injury suffered Sunday against the Texans. The precise injury isn’t known, but for Saints fans it doesn’t matter. The first year of the Rob Ryan experiment will begin with both Victor Butler and Smith done for the duration. The injury to Smith, a first-round pick in 2004 who was moving from defensive end in the 4-3 to outside linebacker in the 3-4, means that Martez Wilson will be asked to step up. Wilson returned to practice a couple of weeks ago after injuring an elbow early in camp. The situation likely will prompt the Saints to keep an extra close eye on the waiver wire as teams cut to 53 players.
The New Orleans Saints defense was one of the worst in NFL history last season, and they brought in Rob Ryan to switch to a 3-4 scheme and several new players, who were supposed to vastly improve that side of the ball. However the Saints defense had been absolutely crushed with injuries this offseason, the worst of which occurred when arguably their most important defensive player, was lost for the season with a torn ACL. Rob Ryan and the Saints coaching staff had been praising Smith’s conversion from defensive end to outside linebacker, and the team was predicting a huge season out of Smith, so this loss is devastating. The defense has also lost starting defensive end Kenyon Coleman with a torn pectoral muscle, and starting outside linebacker Victor Butler will miss the season after tearing his ACL in mini camp. These huge injuries to the projected starting front seven will take the Saints defense from bad to worse this season, expect the Saints to be in shootouts every single week, and you will want players playing for both the Saints offense and against the Saints defense on your fantasy football teams this fall. The scoreboards may break in New Orleans, and the Saints stadium staff may want to look into installing a third digit, records could be broken.