The New Orleans Saints on Thursday begin the process of finding out just how much their new additions, defensive end Noah Spence and defensive tackle T.Y. McGill, can help the team for the remainder of the regular season and postseason.
"There's a vision with each one relative to what we think they do well and how we would use them," Coach Sean Payton said. "They're in good football shape and I'm anxious to see how they do."
Spence, a four-year veteran who played three games this season with Washington, has three tackles and a sack this season. In his career, he has 37 tackles, 7.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and two passes defensed.
McGill, in his fifth season, played three games with the Chargers this year and totaled two tackles. His career totals are 25 tackles, five sacks, two passes defensed and a forced fumble.
They'll join a defensive line rotation that was New Orleans' deepest position on the roster until Sunday, when the Saints lost defensive end Marcus Davenport and defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins to injury. Both were placed on injured reserve.
Davenport was having a productive second NFL season, with six sacks, three forced fumbles and 31 tackles. And Rankins, who started all 16 regular-season games last year and had eight sacks, then ruptured his Achilles in the playoffs, rehabilitated that injury and missed just the first three regular-season games before rejoining the lineup. He had two sacks and 10 tackles in 10 games.
New Orleans' current defensive line rotation consists of Spence, McGill, defensive ends Cam Jordan, Trey Hendrickson and Carl Granderson and defensive tackles David Onyemata, Malcom Brown, Mario Edwards, Jr., and Shy Tuttle.
"I think one of the things this year that we felt really was beneficial was our depth at that position, the defensive line position, carrying eight each game and getting into a rotation," Payton said. "So when you lose a starter – when you lose two starters – the depth helps you, but the next week you're not at eight again. You've got a couple of guys that we're going to be training this week, getting them ready, and those other players that are stepping in will have to step up."
Payton said the injuries the Saints have sustained this season, including quarterback Drew Brees (five missed games after tearing a ligament in his thumb), have been substantial, but are setbacks teams have to handle.
"It's been a little bit more than we're used to and certainly, there have been some front-line guys," he said. "But it is what it is. You learn as you get older, there's certain things you can control. Those are the things that you spend more time focusing on, than the things you can't control.
"Certainly, your preventive measures during the week and how you get guys prepared to play. But you have to count on the next player."