Posted: Jul 31, 2012 10:42 PM by AP
Nagging injuries to the Saints' top two cornerbacks are giving New Orleans a chance to test its depth at the position.
Jabari Greer pulled his groin during Tuesday's practice, two days after fellow first-team cornerback Patrick Robinson hurt his shoulder. Robinson has not yet returned, and assistant head coach Joe Vitt said he could be sidelined a couple more days.
The injuries, which appear minor, mean more work with the first-team defense for second-year pro Johnny Patrick, free agent acquisition Marquis Johnson and fifth-round draft choice Corey White.
Although quarterback Drew Brees had some long completions against them, Vitt has been encouraged by the progress of New Orleans' young cornerbacks.
"I feel good about them right now," Vitt said. "We're in practice. This is a great evaluation coming up this weekend against pretty good receivers that we're going to go against. We were in pajamas in the springtime. We've been in pads now for the third day. I think this weekend is going to be a big challenge."
The Saints (No. 9 in the AP Pro32) open their preseason Sunday against Arizona in the Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio.
Although the starters for either team aren't likely to play for long in that game, Arizona has one of the best receivers in the game in Larry Fitzgerald, along with former LSU standout Early Doucet and first-round draft choice Michael Floyd out of Notre Dame.
The Saints selected Patrick in the third round of the 2011 draft. Johnson, who began his career in St. Louis, is entering his third season. White, a former Samford standout, raised eyebrows the day he was drafted with his comment that he was looking forward to intercepting Brees in training camp.
Instead, it was Brees throwing deep at White and connecting twice, first with Adrian Arrington and later with Courtney Roby.
The young defensive backs will have three more full practices and a Saturday morning walk-through before seeing their first game action of the preseason.
The Saints plan to travel to Canton on Saturday in time for the induction festivities. Former New Orleans and Kansas City All-Pro left tackle Willie Roaf, who played for the Chiefs while Vitt was an assistant with the club, is among the six players being enshrined. Another inductee is defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy, who came into the NFL in Seattle when Vitt was an assistant there.
"Two guys are going in that have meant a lot to me," Vitt said. "Both are great people. Both are great contributors to our sport and great ambassadors. Hey, it's going to be happy and it's going to be emotional, too."
Vitt said the Saints are also hoping to draw a little inspiration from the Hall of Fame display honoring New Orleans' Super Bowl championship squad.
Notes: Veteran TE David Thomas returned to practice after missing three days of work with a strained lower back, but was limited mostly to individual drills. ... Rookie DT Akiem Hicks, who entered training camp still recovering from a broken hand, did some non-contact work on the field. The third-round pick could return to full practice this week. ... The Saints have decided to open Wednesday morning's practice to the public after initially scheduling it as a closed practice.