METAIRIE, La. -- The outlook has only grown bleaker for the No. 32-ranked defense in the NFL this week.
The New Orleans Saints' top cornerback, Marshon Lattimore, missed practice Wednesday while he remains in the concussion protocol. And veteran backup Sterling Moore missed practice with a chest injury.
Add that to the fact that veteran starter Delvin Breaux will miss at least half the year with his broken fibula. If Lattimore and Moore can't play Sunday at the Carolina Panthers, the Saints will be relying on inexperienced corners P.J. Williams, De’Vante Harris, Ken Crawley -- and hope.
The good news for the Saints is that Carolina's offense isn't necessarily built to exploit New Orleans' biggest weakness this year -- breakdowns in the secondary that lead to explosive plays deep down the field. And the Panthers are hurting, too, with go-to tight end Greg Olsen on injured reserve because of a broken foot.
But Carolina will likely try to prey on New Orleans' inexperience in the back seven with a lot of shifts and motions and confusion and a healthy dose of "joker" back Christian McCaffrey, among others. The Saints have been starting three rookies on defense this year (Lattimore, safety Marcus Williams and weakside linebacker Alex Anzalone).
The Saints' offensive tackle position has been in a similar bind. Veteran starters Terron Armstead (shoulder) and Zach Strief (knee) remained sidelined on Wednesday. It's unclear if either has a chance of returning before the Week 5 bye.
And the Saints placed second-year backup defensive tackle Mitchell Loewen on injured reserve with what the New Orleans Advocate reported was a high ankle sprain.
The Saints re-signed veteran defensive lineman Darryl Tapp and promoted former Indianapolis Colts defensive tackle David Parry to fill the roster spots vacated by Loewen and linebacker Stephone Anthony, who was traded Tuesday to the Miami Dolphins.
UPDATED: Later Wednesday, veteran defensive end Kendall Langford announced on Twitter that he also signed with the Saints.
The 6-foot-6, 305-pounder spent his first nine seasons with the Dolphins, Rams and Colts before a lingering knee injury led to his release in Indianapolis in August. Before Langford suffered the injury in 2016, he had never missed a game, and he had a career-high seven sacks in 2015. But he played in only seven games with no sacks last year.