NEW ORLEANS — The Saints and Houston Texans will each be missing an important piece of the puzzle for their defensive and offensive units, respectively, for Sunday’s game in the Superdome.
Saints middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma is inactive because of a left knee injury that he suffered in last Sunday’s 30-13 win over the Chicago Bears.
Vilma was hurt just before halftime of the Bears’ game, but he returned in the second half. He was sidelined for practice all week, however, and was listed as doubtful for the game on Friday by coach Sean Payton, who said the knee didn’t come around as fast as they thought.
Foster, the NFL’s leading rusher in 2010, has been battling a hamstring injury through the preseason and the first games of the regular season. He worked on a limited basis Thursday and Friday, but coach Gary Kubiak said they would put him through some pregame drills before making a decision.
LINEUP CHANGES: Four-year veteran Jo-Lonn Dunbar, who started last week’s game at strongside linebacker, will likely start in Vilma’s place.
The Saints are also expected to shift weakside linebacker Scott Shanle to the strong side and insert Jonathan Casillas into the lineup on the weak side.
Also, Will Smith, who is returning from a two-game NFL suspension for using a banned diuretic, will start at right defensive end. Turk McBride, who started on the right side in Smith’s absence, likely will start on the left side.
Ben Tate will start the game for the Texans in Foster’s place.
INACTIVES: In addition to Vilma, the Saints inactives are K Garrett Hartley (hip), WR Marques Colston (shoulder), CB Tracy Porter (calf), DE Jeff Charleston, DT Tom Johnson and C/G Matt Tennant.
The Texans’ other inactives are RB Derrick Ward (shoulder/ankle), CB Sherrick McManis, WR David Anderson, G Thomas Austin, T Andrew Gardner and QB T.J. Yates.