Left tackle injuries could derail playoff-hopeful Saints, Lions

Two NFC teams with playoff aspirations will find their path to January much tougher after recent major injuries to their left tackles.

Taylor Decker of the Detroit Lions and Terron Armstead of the New Orleans Saints suffered the same shoulder injury, a torn labrum, and both have a return timetable of four-to-six months after surgery, guaranteeing they will miss at least a portion of the 2017 season.

The two took to Twitter to wish each other luck as they embark on the road to recovery:

Heartbroken when I found out I need surgery! No one is more frustrated than me after working so hard. I'll be back #WhoDatNation STRONGER!!
— Terron Armstead (@T_Armstead72) June 16, 2017

And we both gon bounce back!!
— Terron Armstead (@T_Armstead72) June 17, 2017

Their teams will need some luck, too.

Left tackles still don't carry the name recognition of quarterbacks, running backs, or really any other position on the field, but they have never been more important to a team's success than in today's pass-happy NFL.

And Decker and Armstead had the chance to be two of the NFL's best left tackles. The former was a 2016 first-round pick who impressed at right tackle as a rookie and converted to become Matthew Stafford's blind side protector this offseason. The latter is a former Pro Bowler who, when healthy, uses his rare athleticism to help keep Drew Brees upright.

For the injuries to occur at this stage of the offseason leaves the Lions and Saints scrambling to find a backup plan.

In the Lions' case, that plan appears to be hoping and praying another team's trash transforms into their treasure. The Lions traded a sixth-round pick to the Los Angeles Rams for 2014 second overall pick Greg Robinson, one of the biggest draft busts of the decade. The Lions also signed former second-round pick Cyrus Kouandjio, also a bust, and the two will apparently compete to be Decker's replacement.

The Saints perhaps have a slightly more appealing backup plan. The team selected Ryan Ramczyk with its second of two first-round selections in this spring's draft (a move that looks prescient now) and had planned to play him at right tackle. That might change, with Ramczyk debuting on the left side and Zach Strief playing as his bookend. Or, perhaps, the two will flip sides.

The Saints attempted the most passes in the NFL last season, while the Lions ranked 11th. Both teams could lean on their rushing attacks early in the season to take the pressure off their left tackles. Again, the Saints may have the advantage, having added Adrian Peterson to their backfield in April. The Lions will count on the return of a healthy Ameer Abdullah to boost their running game.

Both the Lions and Saints have the overall depth of talent needed to overcome the losses of Decker and Armstead, and they have the rest of the summer to prepare for life without them. By no means do the injuries make the playoffs unlikely for either team, but they certainly won't make the path there any easier.

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