The New England Patriots are traveling to New Orleans to face the Saints in week 2 of the 2017 NFL season in what should be a fun revenge game for Patriots WR Brandin Cooks. The Saints are expected to be shorthanded, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, with their star offensive lineman Max Unger expected to miss the start of the season with a foot injury.
With #Saints C Max Unger likely beginning the 2017 regular season on PUP list, it's a huge hole for the New Orleans retooled offense to fill— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) May 8, 2017
The Saints acquired Unger in 2015 through a blockbuster trade with the Seattle Seahawks for TE Jimmy Graham. Unger was First Team All Pro in 2012 and has routinely been one of the better centers in the league and is the Saints best interior lineman.
Over the past two years with the Saints, Unger has started 31 of 32 games. He has helped block for the #1 rated run blocking line by Football Outsiders for 2016 and ranks 6th in pass protection by Pro Football Focus. Without Unger in the lineup, the Saints have an obvious weakness that will affect the entire offense.
The Patriots love to blitz interior linebackers like Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, and Elandon Roberts, so don’t be surprised if the New England defense tries to flood the interior to generate pressure and knock QB Drew Brees out of his comfort zone.
Fortunately for the Saints, there is plenty of time to either add a veteran, or allow a back-up to integrate themselves into the starting line-up before week 2.