The Saints announced that defensive line coach Ryan Nielsen and pass rush specialist Brian Young will not be with the team for its second game of the season due to NFL COVID-19 protocols. Nielsen’s and Young’s duties will be divided among the defensive staff, the team said, adding that offensive line coach Brendan Nugent will be with the club in Carolina.
Saturday’s announcement brings the team total to eight coaches unavailable this week, and the Saints will be missing at least three starters because of injuries as they look to improve to 2-0.
Defensive end Marcus Davenport (shoulder) and linebacker Kwon Alexander (elbow) were both placed on injured reserve Friday, meaning they will be sidelined for at least three weeks. Center Erik McCoy (calf) and backup linebackers Pete Werner (hamstring) and Chase Hansen (groin) were also ruled out for Sunday’s game. Hansen was officially placed on injured reserve Saturday.
Pro Bowl cornerback Marshon Lattimore will have a chance to play Sunday despite undergoing thumb surgery this week. Lattimore is listed as questionable after practicing on a limited basis Thursday and Friday, and coach Sean Payton said he will probably be a “game-time decision.”
The coaches, meanwhile, were ruled out after testing positive for COVID-19 earlier in the week. Wide receivers coach Curtis Johnson, tight ends coach Dan Roushar, running backs coach Joel Thomas, offensive analyst Jim Chaney, offensive assistant Declan Doyle and special teams assistant Phil Galiano were among the first names announced as out on Friday.
Payton said earlier in the week that all the coaches were vaccinated, so they can return to work once they have two negative tests 24 hours apart.
Saints left tackle Terron Armstead said Payton has been “kind of getting back into his early days” this week while doing more hands-on coaching with various position groups.
“He’s running around. He’s coaching every position,” Armstead said. “I think he’s having a great time embracing the challenge of missing some great minds in our coaching staff. He’s leaning on some of the older guys and veterans to help out where he sees fit. But his energy’s been up. And that’s Sean. He’s never one to use any situation as an excuse, and that type of approach rubs off on a team.”
Lattimore is vital to New Orleans’ defense against a division rival that features standout wide receivers DJ Moore and Robby Anderson. However, the Saints will have veteran cornerback Bradley Roby in the lineup for the first time Sunday after acquiring him in a trade with the Houston Texans last week. And rookie cornerback Paulson Adebo played well in his debut, intercepting Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Also Saturday, the Saints elevated four players from the practice squad to the active roster: defensive back Jordan Miller, linebacker Wynton McManis, center Austin Reiter and defensive end Jalyn Homes.