METAIRIE, La. -- The New Orleans Saints have enough difficulty slowing down Matt Ryan and Atlanta's passing game when their defensive backfield is at full strength.
For Sunday's game in Atlanta, with first place in the NFC South on the line, the Saints could be forced to thrust a couple reserves into more prominent roles in their pass defense.
"We're still trying to see who's going to be back, but I don't think we're worried at all," Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins said. "We've got some young guys that can play. ... We know (the Falcons) have some threats, but we trust in our guys to prepare and get it done the same way."
When New Orleans practiced on Wednesday, starting cornerback Tracy Porter and nickel back Patrick Robinson both stood off to the side, watching without pads.
Porter hurt his neck last Sunday while making a tackle against Tampa Bay. Robinson is having stomach pain.
Coach Sean Payton hopes one, if not both, will feel well enough to play in Atlanta on Sunday. In the meantime, though, veteran cornerback Leigh Torrence is working as a first-team cornerback along with starter Jabari Greer, while rookie Johnny Patrick is lining up in formations with five defensive backs.
Torrence and Patrick could be called upon to play key roles in stopping an offense that not only runs the ball well, but has a number of solid receiving targets including tight end Tony Gonzalez and receivers Roddy White, Harry Douglas and rookie Julio Jones.
"I'm optimistic about Tracy. We'll see where Patrick's at," Payton said. "The other players got good work in today and that's kind of the way our league is. The next guy's up and he's getting the practice (snaps) and you just have to be able to adjust."
Patrick has been inactive in five of nine regular season games, including the past four. When he has played, it has been on special teams.
Notes: In addition to Porter and Robinson, LB Jon Vilma (knee), DE Turk McBride (ankle) and LT Jermon Bushrod (stomach virus) also missed practice. ... RB Mark Ingram (heel) returned to practice on limited basis, while RB Chris Ivory (hamstring) also was limited.
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press