The New Orleans Saints are expecting center Max Unger to be fully healthy for the team’s regular season opener against the Minnesota Vikings on Sept. 11, and head coach Sean Payton said Saturday that he anticipates Unger’s return by Week 3 of the preseason.
The eight-year veteran recently underwent foot surgery, and early reports were that he was likely to start the 2017 season on the physically unable to perform list.
Payton gives an update on Max Unger
— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) May 13, 2017
Trade and free agency signing rumors began to ensue following Unger’s foot surgery, but his expected preseason return has quickly put all those notions to rest.
Unger has started 31 of 32 games since being acquired by New Orleans through a trade, and only missed the team’s Week 14 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this past season due to the foot injury.
While New Orleans’ front office and coaching staff have made defense the top priority this offseason, they also are clearly looking to improve their ground game.
The Saints had the No. 1 overall offense in the NFL last season in terms of yards but finished 16th overall in rushing. New Orleans has since signed future Hall of Fame running back Adrian Peterson and selected offensive tackle Ryan Ramczyk and running back Alvin Kamara in the 2017 NFL Draft.
The Saints know they need to improve their defense if they want to get back to the postseason, but also surely feel that a more dominant ground game can help the team close out late leads. The return of Unger should greatly help New Orleans on the ground and also help keep the franchise’s star quarterback Drew Brees upright.
Unger surrendered just 12 quarterback pressures in 15 starts last season, and has quickly developed a strong rapport with New Orleans’ future Hall of Fame quarterback.