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5 Questions with Windy City Gridiron on Cameron Meredith

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The Saints offense just got even scarier.

NFL: Chicago Bears at Indianapolis Colts Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Our friend Patti over at SB Nation's Windy City Gridiron on the Chicago Bears, was kind enough to answer a few questions about one of the new additions to the New Orleans Saints: WR Cameron Meredith.

The Bears poured a lot of money into pass-catchers this offseason, and declined to match the Saints two-year $9.6 million deal (that contains $5.4 million in guarantees). Are you disappointed the Bears didn’t match, even if only in an attempt to work out a trade? Do you think the Saints under/over-paid?

Absolutely I’m disappointed that the Bears didn’t match. It’s a little puzzling to be honest. Trying to wrap my head around it, the only explanation that makes any sense is that they are concerned his injury won’t allow him to be available for OTAs and pre-season, and they want to prioritize players who will be present while installing a new offense. That’s the best I can do and it’s not good enough for me.

Meredith (formerly known as “Mere Bear”) was an incredible player in 2016 and an extremely easy guy to root for as a local UDFA who continued to prove himself week after week before becoming the Bears’ leading receiver in an otherwise dismal season.

If Meredith comes back to form, the Saints definitely underpaid. and I think his contract is more than fair counting in the risk that his injury limits him on a long-term basis. If I’m a Saints fan, my biggest concern about Meredith’s contract is that it’s only two years.

Obviously health is the primary concern with Meredith at this time, but assuming he’s healthy, what is the strongest aspect of Meredith’s game?

Meredith is a smooth and deceptive route-runner who knows how to find the soft spot in a zone. He’s a former quarterback, and he clearly understands how quarterbacks think. In his breakout season, he was able to make himself the most reliable target for a rotation of three mediocre quarterbacks, and before his injury last year, he seemed to have a special chemistry with Mike Glennon.

In terms of routes, his most impressive plays came on double moves where he was able to separate with deception and grace and then track a deep ball for a huge gain. It’s less exciting, but he’s also consistently effective in curl routes, which is crucial to munching your way down the field in the small chomps favored by the modern NFL offense.

Where would you see he could look most to improve?

While Meredith excelled against zone coverage, he was closer to “very good” against man and press. He’s not afraid to use his hands at the line of scrimmage, but he is not the most physical receiver and has had trouble securing the ball through contact, leading to some unnecessary drops (and a couple of fumbles early in his 2016 season).

Meredith has measures similar to the Saints own Michael Thomas - how do you expect Sean Payton and the Saints offense to best utilize two similarly-sized wideouts?

While their measurables are similar, I see the two as pretty different receivers. I’d say Thomas has strengths in the areas of weakness I listed above for Meredith. Relatively speaking, Thomas is better against man and press and better in traffic while Meredith excels at separating and findings space in a zone. If both are playing outside, it makes sense for Thomas to line up as the Split-End (X) receiver and Meredith to line up as a Flanker (Z).

While Michael Thomas has similar size, Thomas rarely lines up as a slot receiver. Meredith, on the other hand, has split time at both slot and on the outside. Did you notice in any drop-off or increase in production based off the routes Meredith was running and/or where he was lined up on the line of scrimmage?

Meredith can certainly play both slot and outside well, and I think it serves him well to vary where he lines up. Ultimately, I think he is at his best outside. The Flanker position is really ideal for him until he develops his ability to beat press a little more consistently, allowing him to start behind the line of scrimmage but not forcing him into traffic in the middle of the field.

Chicago is going to miss Cameron “the receiver formerly known as Mere Bear” Meredith, and I hope you folks appreciate him. I’m almost certain Drew Brees will.

Thank-you, for taking the time to talk with us! Saints fans, make sure you check out their work over at Windy City Gridiron. You can follow them on Twitter at @WCGridiron and Patti @OpinionBear. Of course, as always, you can follow me on Twitter @dunnellz.