The New Orleans Saints’ weakest part of the roster is the wide receiver corps even though the team has the best performer in the NFL in Michael Thomas.
The New Orleans Saints had one notable need entering the trade deadline and that was at wide receiver. While the Saints certainly could have improved elsewhere, if the front office wanted, it was the wide receiving corps that was under the most scrutiny.
There is no problem with the team’s best receiver, Michael Thomas, who has been the best receiver in the NFL this season. Thomas is on pace to finish with the sixth-most receiving yards and most receptions all-time in a single season. That is how good he has been.
After Thomas, though, the Saints are weak. Ted Ginn Jr. is the team’s second receiver but he has not been much of a factor since Week 1, where he had over 100 receiving yards. Tre’Quan Smith has been hurt and was an average-at-best third receiver anyway.
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Outside of Thomas, the Saints have 415 receiving yards from wide receivers, 101 of which came from Ginn in Week 1. Since then, all other receivers have averaged 44 receiving yards per game.
Granted, a big part of the reason is Drew Brees‘ injury, although Teddy Bridgewater was getting progressively better and actually averaged Pro Bowl numbers in his five games started, so I am not too sure how big of an excuse the receiving corps actually has.
Luckily for the Saints, they have playmakers in other areas that can allow Sean Payton to be creative and fill in the gaps. We have already seen one of these playmakers in action, but I really think the second playmaker has a much different role in the second half that helps the team.
The first is obvious: Taysom Hill. Taysom Hill plays quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end and special teams. Heck, I am surprised he does not hold the field goals for himself to kick, defying the laws of physics in the process.
Hill is second on the team only to Thomas with three receiving touchdowns. Payton loves using Hill and is going to continue to use him in this running back/wide receiver/tight end mold with Drew Brees back under center.
The other playmaker that I think will have a much different role in the second half is Latavius Murray. Murray really did not do anything for the Saints in the first six weeks of the season but exploded onto the scene with two tremendous games in Week 7 and Week 8 with Alvin Kamara out.
In those games, Murray did something that Kamara has never done in his career: run the ball 20 or more times. How good Murray was in these two showings is absolutely going to change how Payton manages the offense.
The Saints now have the luxury to get creative and include either Kamara or Murray as the slot receiver in certain situations, which opens up a whole new world of screen passes, end-around runs and whatever else Payton can wrap his head around.
This is different than just lining them both up in the backfield. Having one of them matched up against either a cornerback in nickel/dime or a linebacker is going to give Brees another speedy target downfield while keeping the check down option without whoever is lined up at running back.
This is not something that Payton can use every single play but both guys are absolutely athletic enough to become reliable options in the passing game in this “outside the box” manner.