Player News: Haralson, Harvin, Willson, Keenan, and Isa
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New Orleans fans got some good news, some bad news and some puzzling news today. Seahawks fan stuck with the good news side of the ledger.
As had been expected, the Saints lost LB Parys Haralson to a torn pectoral muscle. They placed him on IR today. Haralson is a significant loss. At over 255 lbs, Haralson was an enforcer-type outside linebacker in the Saints 3-4 defense. He had a handful of sacks (3.5), including one in the first game against the Seahawks, but was a more integral part of their run defense. He set the edge better than any other linebacker on their roster, meaning he helped funnel outside runs back inside to the heart of the defense. Larger linebackers tend to be more adept at doing this as they are asked to take on tight ends and tackles. Will Herring stepped in for Haralson after he was injured in the Philly game, but Herring is not the same player. He is far lighter, weighing in the low 240s, and is not as strong. He has very limited pass rush skills, but is probably a better coverage linebacker. This qualifies as a “I don’t know how you fix it,” type of problem for the Saints. This was a unique player on their roster, and they don’t have any young depth that is waiting to make their mark in his place. This will absolutely have an impact on their game plan, knowing that Seattle is going to be intent on running the ball. Safety Roman Harper will likely be asked to dedicate even more attention to the line of scrimmage to help out. Of course, Harper is a back-up as well. And Harper already struggles in coverage, so the Saints are going to have pick their poison, and the Seahawks are going to have to shove that poison down the beignet-holes.
Keenan Lewis, the Saints top corner, practiced today and looks almost certain to play. New Orleans fans are surely happy about that, but their excitement is misplaced. Having Lewis is far better than not having him, but the benefit of a Seattle attack that does not feature any one receiver is that Lewis is just another name on the field. Lining up across from DeSean Jackson makes sense. Having Lewis shadow Golden Tate all afternoon just means Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse and that former-MVP candidate will be going against lesser players. The Saints are thin at corner and safety. Lewis playing keeps them from being at the Etric Pruitt level of depth, but does not really help them cover the variety of weapons Seattle will bring to bear through the air.
A name you will likely not hear anywhere else on the Seattle side of things is Isa Abdul-Quddus. He was cut by the Saints today to make room for another corner, Jordan Pugh. I had never heard of Quddus until I started watching Saints film this week. He was all over the field on punt coverage against the Seahawks in the first game. Tate was in good position to break a couple returns if Quddus had not been there to bring him down. Saints fans were trying to figure out his release when the news broke this afternoon.
How does Isa Abdul-Quddus get waived now for Pugh? I just don’t get it.
— Saints Nation Blog (@SaintsNationBlg) January 7, 2014
Some were guessing there may have been team rule violations or something else off-field because most considered him a valuable part of their special teams. Seahawks fans should just realize the New Orleans punt coverage unit just got a little weaker.
On the Seattle side of the day’s news, Tate added his name to the list of people who would know that expects Percy Harvin to play. We are now officially out of the, “is Pete just doing this for gamesmanship,” neck of the woods and headed firmly into, “holy shit, this guy is going to play,” territory. The best part of getting him back would be the decisions it would force in coverage and play-calling for Rob Ryan. They simply cannot ignore his presence. Should Harvin make it all the way back, what was an advantage for Seattle with their receivers versus the Saints corners becomes one of the largest mismatches in the game.
Luke Willson practiced today as well, and may just play a couple weeks after a high ankle sprain. Those injuries often involve ligament damage, so the idea that he may be back so soon is shocking and big boost to the run game. His 4.5 speed probably will not be there, but his strength and reliability as an outlet for Russell Wilson should be.