The Saints revamped, yet dinged-up defense must now find a way to survive another painful season-ending injury. Defensive end-turned linebacker Will Smith is now out for the season with a knee injury, according to several league sources.
Smith went down Sunday during the Saints' third preseason game against Houston on a play that looked so promising. Defensive end Cam Jordan sacked Texans' starting quarterback Matt Schaub, but when the whistle blew, Smith remained on the turf clutching his knee in pain.
The Saints have yet to officially confirm the news, but Smith appears to be the team's second starting linebacker lost for the 2013 season. Victor Butler will likely miss this entire season as he recovers from a torn ACL injury that happened during June OTA's.
Meanwhile, the Saints' other top outside linebacker prospects, Martez Wilson and Junior Galette, are nursing injuries of their own. Wilson is working to return to action Week 1 after rehabbing his dislocated elbow, but there's no announced time table on when Galette will be back in action.
The Saints may try to shore up the position by shopping the market after Tuesday's league-wide roster pruning session, or they may already have the personnel in house.
This could be just the opportunity Jay Richardson has been patiently awaiting, for a variety of reasons. The Oakland Raiders 5th round pick from 2007 has one of those journeyman stories that inspires a fan base, just like those of fullback Jed Collins and center Brian de la Puente.
The Ohio State product has had his most success so far with the Raiders and the Black and Silver's then-defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. Richardson and Ryan worked together for two years in Oakland, 2007 and 2008, when Richardson started 22 games and produced four sacks and 85 tackles.
Ryan moved on to the Cleveland Browns in 2009.
Richardson went to Seattle for the end of the 2010 season after the Raiders released him. He played 7 games for the Hawks – his last regular season action. Richardson sat out of football in 2011, secured another chance with the New York Jets in 2012, only to be cut at the last minute in August. Richardson spent his time out of the league training in Columbus, Ohio and starting an insurance brokerage.
Now, with the Saints, the journey continues. Richardson started as a defensive end here in New Orleans, but because of injuries, moved back to linebacker for the first preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs, where he recorded two tackles and had a fumble recovery.
It may prove to be a fortuitous move for the 6-foot-6, 280-pound veteran as he searches for a new NFL home. Ryan describes him as "tough, smart and hard working." Richardson is a Ryan guy, and started Sunday's game against the Texans in place of Galette.