If Rob Ryan's defense in New Orleans is to take the next step and enter the realm of the elite, it is going to need star corner Keenan Lewis on field—so it was a sour moment for the Saints Friday when he limped off during a preseason game against the Tennessee Titans.
Lewis, 28, left the contest against in the first half favoring his leg, as noted by Kristian Garic of WWL 105.3 FM:
#Saints CB Keenan Lewis goes to locker room limping a bit in left leg with his shoe off— Kristian Garic (@KristianGaric1) August 16, 2014
Canal St. Chronicles captured the moment:
Oh boy. Keenan Lewis is walking to the locker room with a left leg/foot injury. pic.twitter.com/PAMSRoZLNO— Canal St. Chronicles (@SaintsCSC) August 16, 2014
The sixth-year pro is now in his second campaign with the Saints after quietly signing on during free agency two offseasons ago. He spent the first four years of his career with Pittsburgh after being taken in the third round of the 2009 draft.
He ranked as 27th-best cornerback in the NFL last season, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). It was merely the latest notice of upward trajectory after he came in at No. 38 in 2012.
As Larry Holder of NOLA.com reported mere days before the game, Lewis has his eyes on climbing even higher this season:
"I want to be the best," Lewis said. "I respect those guys—Patrick Peterson, Richard Sherman and them. But it's time Keenan Lewis can be mentioned with those guys. I'm ready to go."
With a year of experience under his belt in Ryan's system and the continued addition of talent—such as the major coup that was the Saints bringing on Jairus Byrd this offseason—it is hard to disparage Lewis' chances of earning the label "elite."
Ramon Antonio Vargas of The Advocate provided a peek at how the Saints replaced Lewis Friday:
#saints rookie CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste in for injured Keenan Lewis at left cornerback.— Ramon Antonio Vargas (@RVargasAdvocate) August 16, 2014
For now, Lewis' plans are shelved and the Saints must rely on names such as rookie Stanley Jean-Baptiste, 36-year-old Champ Bailey, Patrick Robinson and Corey White in a division that includes Julio Jones, among other great receivers.
Depending on the severity of the injury, Ryan might have some work to do these next few weeks.