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Saints place FB Austin Johnson on IR, sign OT Nick Becton

The New Orleans Saints placed fullback Austin Johnson on injured reserve with the knee injury he suffered nine days earlier against the Green Bay Packers. They replaced him with second-year offensive tackle Nick Becton, whom they signed off the New York Giants’ practice squad.

The specifics of Johnson’s knee injury are unknown. It’s a shame his season ended so early since the underdog had been off to such a great start.

Johnson began his NFL career as an undrafted linebacker with the Baltimore Ravens in 2012, but he switched positions and joined the Saints in 2013. Then after spending last season on the practice squad, Johnson cracked the opening-day roster this year. He was primarily a blocker but had 22 rushing yards and 15 receiving yards with a touchdown.

At least the timing worked out for the Saints, who got veteran fullback Erik Lorig back from his own ankle injury in mid-October. Lorig has still been shaking off some rust in his first two games back, but he’s a proven veteran whom the Saints expected to be their starter all along this year before he suffered his injury in training camp.

Becton (6-foot-6, 323 pounds) spent last year with the San Diego Chargers after signing as an undrafted free agent out of Virginia Tech. He appeared in one game, spending most of his time on the practice squad. Then he joined the Giants’ practice squad in September after being released by San Diego.

It’s unclear if the Saints are concerned about starting right tackle Zach Strief’s availability after he left last Thursday’s game at Carolina with a back injury. The Saints’ first practice and injury report of the week will be Wednesday as they prepare to host the San Francisco 49ers.

The Saints also added two new players to their practice squad -- fullback Michael Zordich and running back Tauren Poole.