Kwon Alexander, Marcus Davenport among latest Saints designated to return from I.R.

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There’s some good news: the New Orleans Saints designated three more players to return from injured reserve on Tuesday, Oct. 19, including two starters on defense. NewOrleans.Football’s Nick Underhill was the first to report the change in status for each player, which was confirmed on the daily update to the NFL transactions wire.

Just because they’ve been designated to return doesn’t mean all three players will suit up for Week 7’s road game with the Seattle Seahawks. They’ve opened a 21-day window in which to practice in team drills and prove they’ve fully recovered before receiving the green light to join the 53-man roster (just like Pro Bowl kicker Wil Lutz). So while it’s possible all three of them are on the field next Monday, it’s hardly guaranteed.

Here’s a quick look into each player’s situation, and who else is eligible to return once healthy:

LB Kwon Alexander

New Orleans Saints middle linebacker Kwon Alexander (58) jogs during pre-game warm-ups before an NFL preseason football game against the Baltimore Ravens Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Terrance Williams)

Alexander returned to New Orleans on a low-cost contract earlier this offseason and immediately made an impact after recovering from a torn Achilles last year. But a Week 1 elbow injury sidelined him again, and it appears he’ll soon be ready to get back on the field. Whether he’s going to start over talented rookie Pete Werner just yet remains to be seen, but there’s a lot to be said for having multiple options at the position.

DE Marcus Davenport

New Orleans Saints defensive end Marcus Davenport kneels prior to an NFL preseason football game against the Baltimore Ravens, Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)

Davenport looked to have turned an important corner in Week 1, creating the first tackle for loss of the season for New Orleans and later sacking Aaron Rodgers on a bootleg — the exact sort of play that’s burned the team before. Then he suffered a pectoral muscle injury that took him out of action. Getting him back will do a lot to juice up the Saints pass rush, which hasn’t met expectations so far.

Tre'Quan Smith

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith (10) goes through drills during practice at their NFL football training facility in Metairie, La., Monday, Aug. 24, 2020. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, Pool)

Smith returns to immediately push every other receiver on the roster down the depth chart. He’s been a competent third option for a few years now, and the Saints have to be hoping Jameis Winston can get more out of him as a vertical weapon than Drew Brees was able to. Smith and Winston invested a lot of time working together over the summer to establish a rapport. The receiving corps won’t really be right until Michael Thomas is back on top of it, but anything Smith can do to lighten the pressure on Deonte Harris and Marquez Callaway (and Kenny Stills), the better.

Who else is eligible to return?

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas (13) talks to wide receivers coach Curtis Johnson during training camp at their NFL football training facility in Metairie, La., Thursday, Aug. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

He isn’t on injured reserve but we should get some news on Michael Thomas in the next few weeks. He’s served the six-game waiting period on the physically unable to perform list and is now eligible to practice whenever the Saints medical staff clears him. But that’s the issue — when will he be ready? He hasn’t done any meaningful football activities since January, so there’s going to be an acclimation period for the team’s best receiver. Let’s hope he returns sooner rather than later.

Tight end Nick Vannett is the other name to watch out for (and unlike Thomas, he is on injured reserve). He was brought in to become the new Josh Hill, focusing on blocking assignments and occasionally catching a pass or two. Without him the Saints have had to ask Adam Trautman to complete some assignments that, well, he isn’t suited very well for. That’s been a problem for the offense, so hopefully Vannett can return soon from a preseason knee injury that wasn’t expected to keep him out for very long.

Additionally, neither of the team’s two starting offensive linemen battling injuries actually went on injured reserve. Center Erik McCoy (calf muscle) and left tackle Terron Armstead (elbow) have been inactive for a few weeks but can return at any time, once they’re healthy. We’ll be watching closely for updates to their status on the injury report — which, annoyingly, won’t drop until Thursday given the Saints play on Monday this week.

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