Rankins has not played this season, going down with a broken fibula in August. New Orleans played it safe with its top 2016 rookie investment, delaying his return until November after he was initially slated to miss between six and eight weeks. The Louisville defensive tackle appears to be on track to play against the 49ers on Sunday.
The 22-year-old Rankins will join a Saints defense that ranks 27th in total defense but one that’s been deprived of some key parts. Delvin Breaux has also missed extensive time, having not played since going down in Week 1. P.J. Williams also resides on IR. New Orleans gave up a league-record 45 touchdown passes last season but upset Seattle last week and has a chance to move to .500 in San Francisco on Sunday.
While they’re not on pace to give up close to the 45 TD tosses they yielded in 2015, having clamped down despite secondary losses to cede just nine through seven games, the Saints have just 10 sacks. That ranks them 30th in the league. Rankins totaled 14 sacks at Louisville between the 2014-15 campaigns and should help in this department if he’s able to contribute consistently.
Laurinaitis has never spent time on IR in seven previous seasons, starting every game in which he played from 2009-15. But with Rankins having returned, he will not be able to continue that run of making it through every season on a Week 17 active roster. The offseason acquisition missed two games for the Saints and entered as a backup after returning from the quadriceps injury that sidelined him, so multiple streaks for the durable talent have ended this season.
The 29-year-old linebacker suffered the quad injury in Week 3 but returned to play in Weeks 6 and 7 for his new team. The former Rams standout did not make a tackle against the Chiefs or Seahawks, however, and will have more time to rehab now. He finishes the season with 17 stops.
One of several veteran Rams cut this offseason, Laurinaitis signed a three-year deal with the Saints and stands to see his base salary balloon from $900K to $2.45MM next season.
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