New Orleans Saints running back Pierre Thomas is facing 2-3 weeks on the sidelines with a shoulder injury sustained in Sunday's loss to the Detroit Lions, according to the NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.
Thomas, third on the Saints in both rushing (133 yards) and receptions (26), was injured late in the first half and tried to return to the game. However, after absorbing a big hit in the third-quarter, the former undrafted free agent out of Illinois left the field for the rest of the day. Barring a quicker-than-expected recovery, Thomas could miss crucial upcoming games against the Packers, Panthers and 49ers.
Thomas, though not a workhorse type back these days,remains a vital part of the team's offensive attack, particularly in the passing game as one of Drew Brees' favorite targets. The 29-year-old, who agreed to a two-year contract extension with New Orleans in March to help ease salary cap concerns, entered last week's game coming off the best performance of the 2014 season against Tampa in week 5, when he totaled 112 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
With Thomas shelved, Mark Ingram, who returned Sunday after a month out with a broken hand, Khiry Robinson and Travaris Cadet will all handle bigger responsibilities for coach Sean Payton in the Saints' offense. Cadet, like Thomas, excels as a receiving threat out of the backfield who occasionally splits out wide and can handle return duties. Cadet's versatility and special teams prowess has helped him earn a roster spot the last two seasons, and now may be a chance for the undrafted man out of Appalachian State to emerge.
On Sunday, Cadet was targeted 9 times by Brees, catching 6 balls for 51 yards. Cadet played on several of his 20 total snaps before Thomas left the game, suggesting that he should, indeed, be in line for a bigger workload at least for the time being. Ingram and Robinson can handle the brunt of the work on the ground, leaving extra passing down duties to Cadet, who is an able pass protector. For the season, the 25-year-old cadet has caught 16 passes for 134 yards and a touchdown. Pierre Thomas is facing 2-3 weeks out with a shoulder injury.
Thomas wasn't the only Saint to go down in Detroit, as CB Keenan Lewis, C Jonathan Goodwin, DE Glenn Foster and DT Brodrick Bunkley all exited the game with injuries. Foster was placed on season-ending injured reserve Monday. With an open roster spot due to Foster's injury, the Saints will almost certainly look to bring in another body to add to the mix at the defensive end spot in Rob Ryan's much maligned defense. They could, theoretically, also use the spot to add a running back to the fold given Thomas 2-3 week recovery timetable. The team could consider promoting practice squad back Edwin Baker, a former Michigan State Spartan who spent time with the Cleveland Browns in 2013. Local product Michael Ford, who played at LSU and spent time with the Chicago Bears the last two seasons,recently worked out for the Saints, as did former Panthers and Steelers' RB Tauren Poole.
Jimmy Graham, like Pierre Thomas, was expected to be sidelined by a shoulder ailment of his own, and was initially handed a 2-3 week timetable as well. Graham, however, had the luxury of a bye week following his week 5 injury, and was able to use the extra time to his advantage for rest and treatment purposes. Graham ended up playing on Sunday against the Lions, but it seems as though the injury sustained by Thomas will almost certainly keep the team's veteran ace out at least for next weekend's Sunday night tilt against Green Bay, if not longer.
As the hits keep coming in the form of disappointing results on the field, the Saints can't seem to catch a break with regards to injuries either. The team's injury report, which will be made public on Wednesday, figures to be quite long with preparations for Sunday night's home matchup with the Packers well underway.
There is never a good time to lose a valuable, versatile and veteran piece like Pierre Thomas, especially with the 2014 season firmly hanging in the balance. The Saints are still very much alive in the topsy-turvy NFC South, but will have to tread water the next 2-3 weeks without one of the game's most underrated weapons.