Saints' Marshon Lattimore to miss Buccaneers game with hamstring injury

METAIRIE, La. -- The New Orleans Saints will be missing their 2019 "Mike Evans eraser" on Sunday when they face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore, who held Evans without a catch in their Week 5 meeting, was ruled out of this week's rematch with a hamstring injury.

The Saints also ruled out guard Andrus Peat, who is expected to miss six weeks with a broken forearm, and kick returner Deonte Harris, who is dealing with a hamstring injury of his own.

But Lattimore's absence is the most glaring for this week's matchup in particular. Since Week 4, the Buccaneers have the NFL's No. 1 passing offense (306.7 yards per game) and the Saints have the NFL's No. 4 passing defense (187.8 yards per game).

Evans ranks second in the league with 924 receiving yards this year, while fellow Buccaneers receiver Chris Godwin ranks fourth with 840 receiving yards. They have a combined 13 touchdown catches.

Lattimore and Evans have had an intense rivalry during their three years together in the NFC South, starting with Evans being suspended for a game for shoving Lattimore in the back during a sideline scuffle in 2017.

And Lattimore has mostly fared well in their meetings. However, he had perhaps his worst career performance in Week 1 of the 2018 season against Evans in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Evans caught four passes for 115 yards -- including a 50-yard touchdown -- while being covered directly by Lattimore in that game.

Lattimore, who made the Pro Bowl as a rookie in 2017, has been playing at an elite level again over the past two months while routinely locking down No. 1 receivers.

Saints coach Sean Payton suggested that Lattimore's status will be week-to-week. In the meantime, the team will count on veteran cornerbacks Eli Apple, P.J. Williams and Patrick Robinson and rookie safety/nickel back C.J. Gardner-Johnson to step into bigger roles.

"Of course, we accept any challenge," Apple said before Lattimore was officially ruled out. "It would be great to have one of our best players, Marshon, out there with his ability. But we've got great guys and great depth in the secondary. And it's always next-man-up mentality, just like during a game. You never know what's gonna happen.

"So I think we all did a good job of being able to communicate well with guys stepping in (when Lattimore was injured during the first half of last week's 26-9 loss to the Atlanta Falcons). But it's tough to replace someone like that."

Apple has played well this year as New Orleans' No. 2 cornerback. Williams and Robinson have both played much better in recent years as inside slot cornerbacks -- but both have previous experience as starters on the outside.

"[Lattimore] is working on getting healthy. But we feel like we've got pretty good depth at that position," Payton said. "One of the reasons we have depth at that position is to have some flexibility. We've seen a lot more opened-up sets, more receivers on the field than maybe 10 years ago. So it's important to have the ability to match that."