|Saints defensive end Will Smith won’t be wrapping up running backs for the next four games after NFL commissioner Roger Goodell again suspended him for his role in bounty-gate. (US Presswire)|
As it turns out, the Saints would have been much better off if DE Will Smith had served his four-game bounty-related suspension at the beginning of the year.
After a three-man appeals panel gave him a reprieve two days before the season opener, New Orleans lost its first four games, so Smith’s presence was no benefit at all.
With NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suspending him for four games again Tuesday, the Saints (1-4) will face an even tougher road to the playoffs when they return from their bye next Monday. Smith was not having a stellar year (22 tackles, 2 sacks), but the depth behind him is shaky.
Although second-year pro Cameron Jordan (26 tackles, 2 sacks) is solid at one spot, the only other healthy ends are Junior Galette, who has started one game in three years, and Martez Wilson, a converted linebacker in his first year on the defensive line.
Six-year veteran Turk McBride, the Saints’ fifth DE, has been out since the opening game with a sprained ankle. Rookie Braylon Broughton, undrafted out of TCU, is on the practice squad.
Galette (7 tackles, 3 sacks), who signed as an undrafted free agent from Stillman College in 2010, figures to start in place of Smith. Wilson stripped QB Philip Rivers and recovered the ball to seal the Saints’ come-from-behind win over San Diego on Sunday night, but he ran around gimpy OT Jared Gaither, who was virtually immobile due to injury, to make the play.
Wilson had just committed a hands-to-the-face penalty, giving the Chargers an automatic first down on second-and-37. It was the second of two flags he drew.
“Martez is a pass rusher,” Saints interim coach Aaron Kromer said Monday. “That’s why he’s here. He’s here to rush the quarterback. He had two penalties that hurt us, and he has to be better than that. He knows it. We’ve already talked to him about it. He needs to continue in his growth, but right now, his role is to rush the passer.”
The Saints’ ends had four sacks against San Diego, matching their total for the first four games combined.
Goodell also upheld his earlier suspension of LB Jonathan Vilma for the entire season, but it is unclear that Vilma would have been able to help the Saints this year. They put him on the Physically Unable to Perform list with a knee injury after his appeals panel lifted his original suspension. He would have been eligible to be activated after Week 7 if the knee proved sound.
Curtis Lofton, signed to replace Vilma at MLB in the offseason, leads the Saints with 54 tackles.
Follow Saints reporter Guerry Smith on Twitter @CBSSaints.