The goal hasn't changed but the tools used to accomplish the mission have, to say the least.
Saints players have fallen, and are continuing to fall, to injury this season at a rate that seems excessive even by NFL standards.
So far the personnel losses haven't amounted to a reason to prevent victory (New Orleans is 2-0, one of three unbeaten NFC teams). But nevertheless, they have continued to mount.
Cornerback Patrick Robinson became the sixth Saint to be placed on injured reserve, after injuring his patella in Sunday's victory over Tampa Bay. That led to the signing of defensive back Chris Carr, who was released on the final preseason cut.
Last week outside linebacker/defensive end Jay Richardson, another highly regarded player who was let go on the final cut, returned because of depth concerns.
Defensive tackle Broderick Bunkley and ends Tyrunn Walker and Glenn Foster were unable to play against the Buccaneers, and defensive end Tom Johnson was injured during the game.
Roll back the calendar, and outside linebackers Will Smith and Victor Butler, receiver Joe Morgan (all torn ACLs) and defensive end Kenyon Coleman (torn pectoral) were placed on injured reserve before the regular season began. Inside linebacker Jonathan Vilma (knee) was placed on the reserve/injured list, and won't be eligible to play until Game 7.
If the Saints weren't already wed to a "next man up" policy, they'd certainly be involved in a serious relationship with it.
"Fortunately, we're getting some guys healthy," Coach Sean Payton said. "That's the positive news. There's been a few guys that have been out that are coming back.
"That being said, when we practice we make a point of getting a lot of different players reps, not just the starters. That'll be something at the corner position we deal with and hopefully, the guys coming back can help and give us a little added juice."
That preparation has proven to be vital for New Orleans, which hasn't seen much slippage – especially !(http://www.neworleanssaints.com/media-center/photo-gallery/New-Orleans-Saints-at-Tampa-Bay-Buccaneers-Fans/4b7e9d95-7f7d-4255-9f51-ed5fa4844dd5 "New Orleans Saints") defensively – despite the attrition.
Rookie defensive tackle John Jenkins has stepped in for Bunkley. Linebacker David Hawthorne is handling Vilma's spot. Richardson played Sunday, days after being signed, and Robinson's duties possibly will be assumed by Carr, who was on the Saints' short list of fill-ins if the need arose.
"One of the things we do coming away from training camp is put together a short list of players that we've had that might fill a role if we were light at a position," Payton said. "Carr is a good example of a player that was with us, we were familiar with.
"That short list, with (director of player personnel) Ryan Pace, exists at all the positions. If you're familiar with the player the transition is a little smoother. Sometimes, there'll be a player we'll work with in training camp with the idea that he may not make the initial roster but in the case of an injury, he'd be familiar with what we're doing and be able to transition back in."
Carr said he smoothly would re-acclimate. And that if he was going to play this season, he only was going to play for one team.
"I had a feeling that there may be a possibility of me coming back here," Carr said. "It's unfortunate that P-Rob had to go down like that and be out for the season. But if I was going to play anywhere this year again, it was going to be here.
"I didn't want to go anywhere else and have to learn a new system and be around new guys and get comfortable again. I knew if I came back here it's a team I'm already vested in. I care about this team already and I'm thrilled to be back here. I'm glad it worked out.
"They said it was a possibility (of being brought back). I thought it was a possibility as well. I thought I played fairly well and consistent throughout all of training camp. I knew being a veteran and coming in here late and having a lot of guys on the team, that I just might be the odd man out.
"I thought it was one of those situations where if they felt like they needed help, they were going to give me a call because they know that I came here, they know I played very well and they know (that) I know all the (secondary) spots. It'd be better than getting somebody off the street that hadn't been here."
No, Carr was the best tool for this job, same as Richardson was last week. But, understandably, the Saints likely hope they can continue using the same ones for a while.