The New Orleans Saints have finished 7-9 in three of the their last four seasons. But who’s to blame?
Well, there are multiple reasons.
A young offensive line, a suspect defensive secondary and not enough top-tier weapons on the offensive side of the ball.
But, these issues aren’t new to anyone.
Having watched the franchise since 2000, former Saints coach Jim Haslett was able to bring under -the-radar wide receivers like Joe Horn from Itawamba Community College and turn him into a deep threat for the Saints from 2000-06.
That tradition did not change when Sean Payton took the reigns as head coach in 2006.
Ten years later, the tradition continues.
This year, however, the Saints will be without their physical and most dependable wide receiver in the Sean Payton era, Marques Colston.Dec 28, 2014; Tampa, FL, USA; New Orleans Saints wide receiver Marques Colston (12) reacts after scoring a touchdown against the Tampa Bay at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Manning-USA TODAY Sports
If you look at trend closely, notice Colston stepped up as the main contributor and most reliable wide receiver right after Horn left following the 2006 season. Horn was considered the veteran wide receiver.
Now that Payton decided to release Colston, he has the task of not only finding the next receiver in a very young receiving corp to replace Colston’s production but also ensuring that the young receivers elevate their games to a higher level over the course of the summer.
According to Saints roster as of today, the oldest wide receiver they have is newly acquired veteran Vincent Brown from the San Diego Chargers.
Brown, 27, totaled 941 receiving yards and three touchdowns in four seasons with the Chargers.
After Brown, the next oldest wide receiver is 24 while the others are between the ages of 21 to 23.
The Saints options at wide receiver include Reggie Bell, Brandon Coleman, Brandin Cooks, Jared Dangerfield, R.J. Harris, Jake Lampman, Tommylee Lewis, Kyle Prater, Willie Snead, Michael Thomas and Jordan Lambert-Williams.
Looking at the names and wide receiver trend for the Saints, their are a few weapons in this bunch that can step up and fill the void of Colston.
Because Dangerfield, Thomas, Lampman, Lewis and Williams are all rookies, Cooks and Snead are the clear-cut favorites to emerge as the leading receivers for the Saints this season.Nov 1, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) celebrates with wide receiver Brandin Cooks (10) after a touchdown against the New York Giants during the second half of a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Saints defeated the Giants 52-49. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Cooks, 22, tallied 1,138 yards on 84 catches for nine touchdowns last season.
Snead, 23, came just shy of 1,000 yards, finishing with 984 yards and three touchdowns. Thus, Brees will lean more on them to step up but also serve as leaders for the rookies to adjust to the uptempo offensive scheme.
Coleman, 23, started last season off strong. He struggled, however, throughout the majority of the season but put together a string of solid performances at the end of the season that showed glimpses of his true capability at the wide receiver position. He finished the season with 454 yards on 30 catches for two touchdowns.
If the Saints can get solid production from Cooks, Coleman and Snead, consistent production from Brown and solid production and growth in their rookie wideouts like Michael Thomas, Brees will have a plethora of targets to throw to.Jan 1, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Michael Thomas (3) runs for a first down against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the second half during the 2016 Fiesta Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Buckeyes defeated the Fighting Irish 44-28. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Here is a very positive factor to consider for some of the rookie wide receivers looking to make a huge impact for the Saints: some of them mirror the physical stature of Colston, who is 6-foot-4, 225 pounds.
Thomas, 22, was taken by the Saints in the 2nd Round of last month’s Draft, to eventually in time become the replacement in the Saints offense for the departed Colston.
The 6-foot-3, 215 pound Thomas was considered by many scouts heading into the Draft as the most “NFL ready” WR in the 2016 WR class, a testament to the fact that he’s been well-mentored by his Uncle Keyshawn Johnson, the former New York Jets All-Pro and famous WR of the late 1990’s and early 2000’s.
Among the UDFA’s that are vying to make the team, Dangerfield is 6-foot-3, 215 pounds; Prater is 6-foot-5, 231 pounds; and Lambert-Williams is 6-foot-3, 228 pounds.
These receivers have a slight advantage to make a quicker impact on the team if they can adjust to the speed of the NFL game, get stronger physically now and during training camp — learn Sean Payton’s complex offensive scheme quickly and efficiently.Nov 15, 2015; Landover, MD, USA; New Orleans Saints wide receiver Brandin Cooks (10) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Washington Redskins in the first quarter at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Regardless of whoever emerges from among them, the Saints WR corps likely will continue to get even younger but stronger along the way.
And then, perhaps as the old saying goes:
Like a fine wine, the Saints young WR corps will continue to get better with age…..