Saints fear turf toe injury for LT Trevor Penning in preseason finale

·4 min read

During the final preseason game against the Los Angeles Chargers, New Orleans Saints rookie tackle was carted back to the locker room after walking off the field with an apparent lower leg injury. The first-round selection was able to walk to the injury tent, which was good news. But it wasn’t the best news awaiting Saints fans on Saturday morning. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport first reported that Penning is believed to have suffered a “bad case of turf toe” which could keep him sidelined for a few weeks.

Last season safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson also went through a turf toe injury which caused him to miss four games. Back in 2019, wide receiver Devante Adams also missed four games with the same injury. Fellow wideout A.J. Green missed three games after suffering the injury in Week 8 of the 2018 season. He returned for 17 snaps against the Denver Broncos and then missed the remaining  four games of the season after aggravating the toe. This is an injury that can go many ways. Saints running back Mark Ingram went through it as well back in 2011 and missed six matchups.

There are a pair of silver linings here though. The first bit of good news is that this is not the type of injury that becomes a plague for years to come. It’s an impact injury that will take some time to heal up now, but shouldn’t become a long-term concern unless rushed to get back on the field too quickly. The next is that there are still two weeks before the Saints opening regular season action against the Atlanta Falcons. While it’s very unlikely Penning will be available Sept. 11, the schedule does carve out two weeks of his recovery time. That takes a six-week injury down to four games missed and a four-week injury potentially down to two games missed.

It seemed unlikely too that Penning would open the season as the starting left tackle if tackle James Hurst was also healthy. The underlying issue will be that he loses practice time and therefore ability to further his progression. Head coach Dennis Allen updated on Hursts’ progress last night saying that he’d be ready “sooner than later.” Throughout camp “sooner than later” from Allen has proven to mean “tomorrow” in most cases. So, expecting Hurst for Week 1 doesn’t seem too far fetched.

The big question beyond Penning’s return timeline, which is still to be determined, comes down to depth at the position. Behind Hurst, the Saints are shorthanded at left tackle options. Landon Young has been managing an injury, undrafted free agent Lewis Kidd has played almost exclusively on the right side, and Ryan Ramczyk is a part of the unit as well but is already your starting right tackle. The Saints placed veteran Derrick Kelly in the game after Penning left with the injury on Friday.

Some veteran available options on the open market include: Jason Peters, Nate Solder and Eric Fisher. Peters and Fisher each took over 800 snaps at left tackle last year. Solder took over 1,000 at the position in 2019. He opted out of the 2020 season and spent last year playing much more on the right side for the New York Giants. Another viable option would be former Denver Bronco Bobby Massie. He has only picked up a couple of games-worth of experience on the left side since being drafted in 2015, but with Hurst already locked in at starter, Massie doesn’t have the wear and tear of the aforementioned options with experience on both sides of the line. New Orleans could also look to the trade market.

Most of the free agent options remaining are over 30 years old, but the Saints would not be looking for long-term starters in this scenario. Helping the team by providing veteran depth for a hand of games or so could very well be the aim. The next thing to watch for when it comes to Penning beyond additional news around the injury is how New Orleans handles his roster spot after the 53-man cut downs.

If the Saints keep him on the roster and don’t move him to injured reserve come Aug. 31, it could mean they expect him back within the first four games of the season. If they do move him to the injured reserve list after the roster becomes official next Wednesday, he would miss at least the first four weeks of the season. Something to keep an eye on as the offseason wraps up and the regular season rapidly approaches.

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Story originally appeared on Saints Wire