(WVUE) - You have to feel for Nick Fairley. He worked to reshape his image last season and bet on himself by signing a one-year deal with the team. He responded with a career-high 6.5 sacks and became the Saints best defender. He signed a brand new four-year, $28 million contract and rejuvenated his career. Now, that career seems tenuous at best. Heart conditions are nothing to play around with and apparently his is too risky for this season. It really is too bad for both Fairley and the team.
The Saints are now left to regroup. It won't be easy but it can be done. His absence will hurt but it's not insurmountable to overcome. The current depth chart at defensive tackle reads: Sheldon Rankins, David Onyemata, Tyeler Davison, Justin Zimmer, Ashaad Mabry and Tony McDaniel.
Rankins is reason number one to still believe.
He and Fairley would have made a dynamic duo along the interior of the Saints defensive line. That won't happen now. But make no mistake, Rankins was drafted in the first round to be the star not the sidekick. It was him, not Fairley, that was expected to have the kind of season Fairley had last year. In 2016, Fairley was viewed as a bonus until Rankins was injured and he responded. In 2017, it'll be Rankins turn to step up with Fairley on the mend. He showed flashes of that ability in half of a season last year. He finished with four sacks in eight games.
The difference is this year they won't be waiting for those numbers to improve. Without Fairley by Rankins' side, the Saints will be counting on it.