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The New Orleans Saints group of Tight Ends largely underwhelmed during the 2017 regular season. Coby Fleener, who joined the Saints prior to the 2016 regular season, played in only 11 games in 2017 before landing on Injured Reserve to end the season. He finished with 295 total receiving yards and two receiving touchdowns on the year. Fleener’s Week 11 concussion was part of the primary reason the Saints were forced to announce his release this offseason.
Fleener was joined at Tight End by Josh Hill and Michael Hoomanawanui. The Ho-Man played in only 14 games with 52 total receiving yards and one TD. Josh Hill was the only Tight End to play in all 16 games for the team last year, but he only finished himself with 125 receiving yards and one TD. Hill did have a solid postseason, though, almost matching his season total with 103 yards and one TD over both postseason games.
So here’s why they’re better in 2018:
Losing Coby Fleener hurts, but to say Fleener underwhelmed during his stint in New Orleans would be an understatement. To replace Fleener in the 2018 offense, the Saints re-signed the player Fleener was signed to replace himself: Benjamin Watson.
In case you weren’t keeping up with the math, the Saints three Tight Ends finished the 2018 season with a combined 472 yards and 4 TDs. While Ben Watson is far from a spring chicken, Watson single-handedly beat the Saints’ combined yards total with 522 yards and matched the 4 TDs in 2017. And keep in mind: Watson did this in 2017 with the “elite” Joe Flacco throwing him the ball.
Watson is 37 years old (he turns 38 in December), but should still have enough in the tank to be productive in the New Orleans offense. Tony Gonzalez, in his age 37 season (the final season of his career), finished with 859 yards and 8 TDs with the Atlanta Falcons on his way to his 14th Pro Bowl. In Watson’s final year with New Orleans, he finished with 825 yards an d 6 TDs. If Watson could come anywhere close to those numbers, it would be a huge win for the Saints.
But Hill and Ho-Man are still on this team too. It’s not like the Saints lost all three. Every year Saints fans think this could be the season where Josh Hill finally steps up as a major receiving threat in the New Orleans offense like many thought he was destined to become. Maybe this is that year. We definitely saw glimpses of his potential in the 2017 playoffs.
And then there’s UDFA Deon Yelder out of Western Kentucky. Yelder was given a fairly large (relatively speaking) signing bonus to sign with the Saints after the 2017 NFL Draft left Yelder in the unemployment line. Yelder is said to be a big-bodied target with above-average and an adept route-running. He is known to struggle with blocking schemes, but it’s not like that’s stopped Saints Tight Ends in the past...