Photos from Saints practice on Friday, September 30, 2015. Photos by Alex Restrepo (New Orleans Saints photos)
The New Orleans Saints' depleted secondary is getting close to having two projected starters return to the lineup.
Cornerback Keenan Lewis and safety Jairus Byrd were limited in practice Wednesday. However, Lewis, the starter at left cornerback, and Byrd, who will step in at free safety, are nudging closer to game action.
Lewis, in fact, is expected to make his regular-season debut Sunday night against the Dallas Cowboys in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
His return will bolster the Saints' depth at cornerback. Fellow New Orleans native Delvin Breaux has started in Lewis' place and has performed well, and rookie Damian Swann also has been impressive in his increased role.
"I do see Keenan having a real good chance to play this week," Coach Sean Payton said Wednesday. "We've got to be smart with his first week back, just with a total pitch count. But it's a good problem to have.
"Obviously, we'll have more than one defensive package. We've got to find a way to put our best guys out there and then depending on whether it's first, second or third down, that could change."
Byrd participated in most of the offseason workouts, but had surgery prior to training camp and didn't play in preseason or the first three regular-season games. Byrd also missed the final 12 games in 2014 due to injury.
"Feel pretty good," Byrd said. "I'm taking it day by day and look forward to playing. I'm definitely looking forward to getting back out there. We'll see how this week goes, I'm just taking it one day at a time."
Byrd, a prized free agent pickup last year, said it has been difficult sitting out 15 of his first 19 games as a Saint.
"It's been difficult, but I'm just taking it for what it is," he said. "I didn't try to hurt myself or try to get hurt. It's what comes with the game. I'm as frustrated as anyone else, but I'm just taking it in stride.
"It's something that you deal with and you just grow with it."
He said he understands fans' frustrations, but that he's doing everything possible to return to the field.
"Any time you can try to get back to the field, that's where I want to be," he said. "But I'm taking it for what it is – I got hurt and, and now I'm trying to get back out there.
"Just stick in there. I'm as frustrated as them. I didn't come into this trying to get hurt. No one tries to get hurt. It's just something that I'm dealing with and I'm frustrated too, but I'm just praying and getting healthy."