AP Photo/Bill Feig
One of the most interesting position groups we have on this team full of young stars is at Wide Receiver. We have “Can’t Guard Mike” Michael Thomas entering his junior campaign after eclipsing 1,100 yards in each of his two previous seasons and proving to be a true #1.
Ted Ginn Jr. had what I would say was his best season in the league, his yards and TDs weren’t a surprise compared to other seasons but, where he excelled was in catch percentage. His 75.7% was 15.2% higher than his previous best season. I guess that’s what happens when you have Brees throwing to you.
Cameron Meredith will be an interesting case in that he showed #1 potential in Chicago, but how will he recover from the ACL injury he had last preseason? We all know that his main use will be as our beloved big-bodied slot receiver. Brees should be able to elevate his game to a whole new level similar to what he did to Ginn last season.
Our only other confirmed roster spot is in third round draft pick out of UCF, Tre’Quan Smith. I’m super excited for this guy to progress. He has the tools to be a good receiver in any situation we need. UCF had him lining up outside, put him in the slot, and even in the backfield as a jet sweep threat. Where he shined the brightest was as a deep threat. When thrown to on deep passes he recorded a 70.8% catch rate, 649 yards, and 9 touchdown. The QBs that threw those passes to him had a 152.8 passer rating when doing so. He has great potential, but this season expect to see him mainly in 4 receiver sets, and if we need a physical, deadly deep threat.
Where we have some uncertainty is after that WR4 spot. We have multiple possibilities for a minimum fifth and possibly a sixth receiver on our team. So, where will we decide to go for our depth guys?
Brandon Coleman played in all 16 of our games for the third consecutive season. He’s never been a huge receiving threat for us but when he isn’t catching, he’s using his huge frame to block and create space for our backfield. Mark Ingram and Sean Payton have been quoted as saying how strong of an asset he is to our run game, and that is why we brought back the restricted free agent and why I think he will be our WR5.
Tommylee Lewis is someone that I’ve wanted to succeed for so long, it’s becoming increasingly more obvious that this may be his last chance to make an impact and stay on our roster. We have picked up a supposedly better deep threat in Tre’Quan Smith, and in his specialty of Special Teams we’ve picked up safety Natrell Jamerson and halfback Boston Scott to replace him. If he doesn’t blow our minds this training camp and preseason I don’t see him making the 53-man.
Patriots preseason star Austin Carr was picked up by the Saints after being cut during the Pats 53-man cutdown. If he can flash like he did during last preseason and his senior year at Northwestern,where he logged 90 catches for 1,247 yards and 12 TDs, he could make a solid WR6. He can be our small, white, scrappy, gym rat slot receiver that all the good teams have, well maybe that’s just one of them.
Our final combatant for a WR spot on the 53-man is LSU star Travin Dural. I was huge on him when we got him as a UDFA, convinced that he is a much better receiver than shown given that he was working with LSU’s iconic bad QB corps. During OTAs, it was reported that he and Brees had an increasing chemistry with Brees consistently finding Dural even when Thomas and Ginn were on the same field. And if we know one thing, it’s that when Brees likes someone, we make room for them.
We have former third round pick Josh Huff on the roster, but I don’t see him overtaking any of these guys, as he’s shown little improvement entering his fifth NFL season. We do have two UDFAs that are legitimate threats for that 6th spot, who caught a couple eyes in minicamp in Eldridge Massington and Keith Kirkwood. Massington is 6’1 and clocked a 4.44 40 time at UCLA’s pro day. Kirkwood, out of Temple, is 6’3 and had 72.5% of his college receptions go for first downs. For comparison, in the ’17/’18 season that would rank in the top 10 of all receivers and top Michael Thomas’ by 5.2% to lead our team. If I had to guess what the latter part of our WR depth chart looked like I would say Brandon Coleman as WR5 and one of Carr/Dural with the other joining two of Kirkwood/Massington/Lewis on the practice squad. However, I am super excited to see more of Kirkwood and Massington as the offseason progresses, don’t be surprised to see one of them on the 53-man before the end of the season.