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Saints offense could benefit from a Willie Snead breakout against Bears

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2017 hasn’t been kind to Willie Snead, but the back half of the season should be different for him and the Saints.

NFL: Detroit Lions at New Orleans Saints Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Willie Snead is one of the few Saints who looks to get things going in 2017. After facing uphill battles from a 3-game suspension and hamstring injury, the third-year New Orleans receiver is finally back to feeling like himself.

On his hamstring injury, Snead recently told reporters, "There wasn't a setback. I think it's just being in shape again, and actually getting in the game and starting to take reps. My hamstring, pretty much wasn't ready for the Detroit game, and it caused me to sit out this last game (Packers)."

Snead hasn’t found the end zone since Week 9 of 2016, hitting pay dirt twice against the Broncos in the team’s controversial 25-23 loss. He also hasn’t gone over 100 yards since the season opener in 2016 against the Raiders (9-172-TD). His lone catch this season was for 11 yards, and was targeted three times in his season debut.

Outside last week’s game against the Packers, the Saints offense has struggled on third down. On the season, they’ve now improved to a 40 percent conversion rate (30-of-75). Naturally, they still have room to get better in that category. A lot of talk goes into how Snead has helped and can help with those struggles, and here’s why.

From 2015-2017, with Snead being involved, the Saints ran 72 passing plays on 3rd Down. Snead accounted for 41 of the team’s first downs in those 28 games, giving them just over a 56 percent conversion rate. His distribution is pretty close in different yard to go situations, but he’s more of a factor on 3rd and 7-10 yards (23) and greater than 11+ yards (22).

Snead also has one more first down to boast from his 50-yard passing touchdown to Tim Hightower last season against the Rams. You can check out a full and detailed breakdown here.

Snead, who’s playing under an exclusive rights free agent contract this season, still hopes to cash in on a long-term deal, but must really bring it for the Saints offense and Drew Brees to get back into that conversation.