New Orleans Saints defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins' injury-plagued, young career hit another snag Sunday when he was carted off the field with a leg injury that was reportedly diagnosed as a torn Achilles that will require surgery.
Mike Garafolo of NFL Network reported the news after the 24-year-old went down in the second defensive drive of the NFC Divisional Round battle against the Philadelphia Eagles. Rankins was ruled out by the Saints, per Mike Triplett of ESPN.
On Monday, Nick Underhill of the New Orleans Advocate reported an MRI confirmed the tear and that Rankins will have surgery this week.
Rankins' debut campaign got off to a delayed start in 2016, as a broken fibula suffered during the preseason caused him to miss New Orleans' first seven games.
The No. 12 overall selection in the 2016 NFL draft out of Louisville returned in Week 9 against the San Francisco 49ers, and he showed flashes of brilliance by putting up 20 tackles and 4.0 sacks in nine contests.
He followed that up by starting all 16 games last season and finishing with 26 tackles and 2.0 sacks.
In 2018, Rankins registered 40 tackles and eight sacks.
Rankins shot up draft boards due to excellent junior and senior seasons with the Cardinals that saw him average 56 tackles, 13 tackles for loss and seven sacks per year as a lineman capable of playing either inside or outside.
Defense had been the Saints' weakness for years, which made drafting Rankins a no-brainer as he excels at both rushing the passer and stopping the run.
Now that Rankins is banged up once again, the Saints' defensive depth will be put to the test.
Tyeler Davison figures to maintain his starting spot, while playing time at Rankins' position will likely go to David Onyemata.
While the Saints tend to rely heavily on their high-octane offense to win games, they need their defense to step up in order to advance this postseason.