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Devery Henderson: Forgotten but not Gone

I am beginning to notice more and more people questioning the seeming lack of production from wide receiver Devery Henderson this season. Not only here at Canal Street Chronicles and on other Saints boards but also, most recently, during yesterday's Saints Mailbag segment over at the Times-Pic, which is what finally drove me to discuss the topic myself.

In case you haven't seen it mentioned or thought of it yourself, here is the mailbag question answered yesterday by Mike Triplett at the Times-Pic. It accurately represents other complaints/questions I've heard/read about Devery's performance this season. 

Q: What's the real story behind Devery Henderson's disappearing act this year? Is he hurt, out of favor from drops (all WRs have done this), lost a step and can not stretch the field, unhappy, pouting, lost Brees' confidence (and why?) ... ?? 

Admittedly,  it certainly "feels" like Devery hasn't been the same receiver we've seen in the past. At least not the receiver from 2009, anyway. I get that. But is it actually true? We're gonna have to check out the numbers for this; they never lie. Below is a comparison of Devery Henderson's stats through the first nine games of the past three seasons.

Devery Henderson through first 9 games 2008 2009 2010
Catches 20 30 22
Targets 39 46 39
Yards 532 523 262
TDs 3 1 1
Longest 84 63 39


So what can we make of all this numerical mumbo-jumbo? 

Well I don't think there's any truth to the speculation that Brees has lost confidence in Henderson. Since he's been targeted only seven times less than last year at this point and exactly the same amount of times as 2008, I wouldn't say he's getting much fewer chances. Not enough to warrant a conspiracy theory anyway. 

Devery's catch total is down a little bit this season but only by eight catches. In other words, he's averaging only one less catch per game and not even that much. Again, not really what I would consider a significant difference. 

I can't accurately say whether he's dropped more passes this season but he has failed to catch almost the exact same number of passes this year compared to last. 

Is he scoring less? Nope. Both this year and last Devery only had one single touchdown through nine games. 

Really the only area of Henderson's game that's down significantly is the total yardage he's been able to accumulate. So far this season he's 261 yards off last years pace. With considerably less yardage and not as much of a dip in his catch total (as mentioned above), that can only mean Devery just isn't getting as much bang for his buck these days. In other words, he's not the big play threat he once was. A quick look at his longest plays per season confirm that. 

What this means is that I think we can narrow our focus when discussing Devery's apparent drop off. Because he hasn't disappeared. It seems to me the real question we should be asking is simply: What happened to Devery Henderson as a deep threat? That's the specific area in which he's hasn't been the same as in years past. 

Is it because defenses are doing something special this season? Is he just dropping the big pass plays? Is it part of a Payton master plan, using him more as a decoy and allowing other receivers like Lance Moore greater opportunities? 

Here's the part where you guys chime in.