Saints: Offense looks healthy, D dinged up

METAIRE, La. -- Only two players missed practice for the New Orleans Saints on Friday. But one of them was new to the list – linebacker Curtis Lofton, who was sidelined by an ankle injury. That leaves both of the Saints’ starting inside linebackers in jeopardy of missing Sunday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys, since David Hawthorne also missed practice for the third straight day with a toe injury.

It’s unclear when Lofton was injured or how severe the injury is, since the Saints’ injury report came out after Friday’s media access. So it’s hard to predict whether he’ll be available for Sunday’s game.

If the Saints have to play without both of their starting inside linebackers, they’ll lean on backups Ramon Humber, Will Herring and Kevin Reddick – and possibly on outside linebacker Parys Haralson. Mostly they’ll lean on defensive coordinator Rob Ryan’s creativity, with different alignments and formations.

The Saints offense appears to be in good shape heading into Sunday’s game. Tight end Jimmy Graham, receiver Marques Colston and guard Jahri Evans are officially listed as questionable. But they all practiced on a limited basis again Friday – the latest encouraging sign that they’ll be good to go.

Graham smiled as he sidestepped questions about his lingering foot injury and the new elbow injury he suffered during last Sunday’s game at the New York Jets. He finished that game without showing any noticeable limitations. And he has practiced on a limited basis the past two days. So chances are, he’ll be fine Sunday.

“The elbow’s the elbow. It’s still connected. It’s still there, so I’m going to keep using it,” Graham said.

Graham later added, “The foot is what it is. And it's going to be what it is. And I'm going to keep playing the way I play, and doing what I can to be healthy and be out there Sundays. That's the best I can do."

Colston’s status is a little more ambiguous since he was held out of last Sunday’s game with a knee injury. But it’s likely he will return after practicing on a limited basis every day this week. Colston declined to comment Friday.

The Saints’ defense, meanwhile, is littered with injury question marks.

A total of seven defensive players are listed as questionable – including Lofton and Hawthorne. End Cameron Jordan (ankle) and safety Malcolm Jenkins (knee) both returned to practice on a limited basis Friday for the first time this week. Jordan is more likely to play, since he’s been playing through the nagging ankle injury for the last two weeks. Jenkins is harder to predict, since he just returned to practice for the first time Friday after missing nearly two weeks with the knee injury.

Fellow safety Roman Harper (knee) is in the same boat, even though he practiced fully all week. Harper has been out since Week 2, and coach Sean Payton said it might take longer for him to get up to speed than some of the others on the list.

Defensive linemen Tom Johnson (hip) and Tyrunn Walker (knee) are listed as questionable, but they should be good to go after practicing fully all week.