Keenan Lewis injury: Saints CB expects to play vs. Seattle

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sport

The Saints should have their top corner against Seattle as Keenan Lewis is likely to return.

SB Nation 2014 NFL Playoff Coverage

The Saints won't release their first injury report until Wednesday, but cornerback Keenan Lewis returned to practice on Tuesday and said he will play on Saturday against Seattle.

"I'll definitely be out there," Lewis said, via Ramon Vargas of The Advocate. "I'll be ready to go."

Lewis suffered a head injury during the third quarter of New Orleans' game against Philadelphia and did not return. Television cameras showed him talking to the medical staff on the sidelines, appearing to plead his case to return to the game. Lewis said that being forced to sit out was extremely frustrating.

Having him healthy this week against the Seahawks should be a boost for the Saints' defense. Lewis is the top cover corner on the roster and he led the team with four interceptions while finishing second with 11 pass deflections. The Saints are already playing without Jabari Greer and lack experienced depth. Undrafted rookie free agent Rod Sweeting replaced Lewis against Philadelphia, but he played just 15 defensive snaps during the regular season, according to Pro Football Focus.

Lewis' status for the game will be key, especially with the possibility of Percy Harvin playing for Seattle. The Seahawks are a run-first team regardless of Lewis' status. Their focus on the run doesn't mean that Seattle is incapable of beating teams through the air. Russell Wilson lit up the Saints through the air earlier this season, throwing for 310 yards while averaging an absurd 10.3 yards per attempt.

Harvin didn't play in the first meeting and would add another dynamic playmaker to an already solid Seattle receiving corps. Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin and company didn't put up prolific stat totals, but were among the most-efficient wide receivers in the NFL. Baldwin led the NFL in yards per target during the regular season at 10.7, according to Advanced NFL Stats. Tate wasn't far behind, finishing 14th at 9.1 YPT. Jermaine Kearse also averaged 9.1 YPT, taking over for Sidney Rice midway through the season.

Adding Harvin to the mix poses an even bigger challenge for Lewis and the Saints to defend. Harvin played in just one game this season, but has proven to be among the most explosive players in the NFL. Despite his lack of playing time, the Saints will be forced to respect his ability and that alone could open things up for Seattle's offense. Danny Kelly of Field Gulls broke down the impact Harvin's presence makes:

At least, it will likely change some of the formations and personnel groupings that Seattle will favor going forward. Specifically, look for an increase in the frequency of '11' personnel (3WR), '10' personnel (4WR), and '20' personnel (2RB/3WR).

The crux of the theory is that, somewhat counter-intuitively, Harvin will help Seattle's run game as much as, or more than their actual passing game. Obviously, Harvin can be a game changer in the pass game and in the return game (important phases, both), but his addition changes the complexion of the offense formationally, which will help Seattle become more explosive in both phases.

If Kelly is right and Seattle does utilize more three and four wide receiver sets, having Lewis active and on the field will be absolutely vital, whether he's covering Harvin, Tate or Baldwin. Philadelphia took advantage of mismatches when Lewis came off the field and Seattle would likely do the same, possibly with more weapons than ever.

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