Jairus Byrd's unknown status dominates Saints mailbag

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@MikeTriplett: These were just three of the many Jairus Byrd questions I had to choose from (the last one was my personal favorite).

Unfortunately, I don't have a great answer since I haven't been able to dig up many specifics on the nature of Byrd's injury, other than it's believed to be a knee issue. I'm not even positive that it's related to the knee issue that landed Byrd on injured reserve last year, since he was back and participating throughout OTAs and minicamp before going MIA at the start of training camp.

But we should learn more by the end of the day. If the Saints place Byrd on the reserve PUP list, we know he's out at least six more weeks. If he stays on the active 53-man roster, the projection will be more optimistic.

Coach Sean Payton said a little over two weeks ago that Byrd hadn't suffered any setbacks and the goal was to get him back before the end of the preseason. But I'm wondering about that setback thing, since we haven't seen Byrd even roaming the sideline for a couple weeks now. Earlier in camp, he was at least spotted working with trainers a few times off to the side or shadowing his teammates during some of the walk-throughs.

As for the "bust" question, I'm not ready to place that label on Byrd just because of injury issues. It's still possible he finishes strong this season or resurrects his career next year.

But my optimism has definitely waned. At the beginning of the offseason, I considered Byrd a three-time Pro Bowler with a chance to be one of the team's top "upgrades" this season when I expected him to come back healthy. Now I'm at the point where anything Byrd does above and beyond what current starter Rafael Bush can do will feel like a bonus.

I also don't know enough about Lewis' specific injury to predict how strong he'll come back. But if he's only out for 4-7 weeks, he still has plenty of time to return for a strong second half and make a valuable impact. If the Saints decide to place Lewis on short-term injured reserve, they will have to wait until Tuesday to do so.

@MikeTriplett: There is definitely reason to worry about the defense, especially because of the injury to Lewis. Both the secondary and the pass rush are thin and unproven. But I would also caution not to put much weight or worry into Thursday night's 38-10 blowout loss to the Green Bay Packers. Most of the guys who got torched in that game shouldn't be on the field much this season.

Remember how good the starting D looked against the New England Patriots' starters (even with the entire starting secondary sitting out)? I wouldn't put too much stock in that performance either - but it's more relevant than anything that happened on Thursday.

The best thing I saw for the Saints' defense this summer was the improved play and motivation of defensive linemen Cameron Jordan and Akiem Hicks - who trimmed down in the offseason and could be the two best players on the D. Safety Kenny Vaccaro added weight and seems similarly motivated. I like the addition of Browner and the emergence of Delvin Breaux and the rookie linebackers.

It won't be a top-10 unit, maybe not a top-20 unit. But it has to be better than last year, right?

@MikeTriplett: Spiller wasn't back doing anything as of last Tuesday. So Week 1 is a big question mark for him. We'll know more once we see the Saints back on the practice field Wednesday.

@MikeTriplett: A big one. Damian Swann, the fifth-round draft pick from Georgia is projected as the Saints' nickel cornerback right now and the next man up behind starters Brandon Browner and Delvin Breaux. And the guys behind him aren't exactly beating down the door - though veteran Kyle Wilson has shown some improvement as the summer has gone on.

@MikeTriplett: Definitely. I think they're always on the lookout, and they wind up picking someone up about every other year. I could especially seem them being on the lookout for a cornerback, pass rusher or backup offensive lineman. But we're typically talking about guys like Rafael Bush, Robert Meachem and Bryce Harris - not necessarily someone who's going to come in and save the day.