When you go out on a limb to make a prediction, it’s easy to hope everyone forgets about it or to dismiss it as just being an attempt at making a bold prediction that you knew wouldn’t actually pan out. I’m going to do no such thing: I was absolutely wrong about Coby Fleener in 2017.
With Willie Snead set to miss the first few weeks of the season and Brandin Cooks playing in New England, I expected the Saints to look to Fleener to pick up a significant portion of the offense. I expected big things from him after a disappointing first year in New Orleans. And for the first couple of games, I didn’t look too crazy. Fleener had only 87 combined yards in Weeks 1 & 2, but also caught a touchdown pass in each game.
After Week 2, Fleener was virtually nonexistent for the next seven games. From Weeks 3-10, he totaled 109 receiving yards and failed to find the endzone.
And then came the Week 11 contest against the Redskins. The Saints were down late and trying to drive to tie the game, and when the rest of the offense had hiccups, it was actually Coby Fleener who came up with big plays near the end of regulation. Fleener finished that game with 5 receptions for 91 yards (only 18 yards fewer than his previous 7 games combined).
OK. The Saints have finally figured out how best to get Fleener mis-matched on opposing teams. They’ll finally start utilizing him as a primary option on offense, right? Maybe so. But we’ll never know.
In Week 12 against the Los Angeles Rams, Fleener was laid out in a helmet-to-helmet shot from Blake Countess that winded up costing him the rest of the season.
Blake Countess was fined $24,309 for this brutal hit on Coby Fleener. Easy to see why. pic.twitter.com/r460ludqH2— Cameron DaSilva (@camdasilva) December 1, 2017
Fleener was placed on Injured Reserve following his concussion against the Rams, his second concussion on the season after a previous incident at training camp.
With Fleener’s concussion history, lack of production for the Saints the past two seasons, and hefty contract, it’s uncertain what the Saints will do with Coby Fleener moving forward. In the entire Sean Payton Era before Fleener, the Tight End was one of the more heavily-involved pass-catchers in the scheme (whether it be Jeremy Shockey, Jimmy Graham, or Benjamin Watson). The Saints have yet to find a true replacement in the offense since the aforementioned Graham was traded to the Seahawks three years ago, but at this point, regardless of what I originally predicted, it doesn’t seem likely that Fleener is the longterm answer.