Bringing back a series of pieces from the past three years, we’re going to check each position group on the New Orleans Saints and discuss how they improve the Saints’ chances of making a run in 2019. On to the Saints tight ends!
To view previous parts, see below:
The tight end position largely underwhelmed for the New Orleans Saints in 2018. Benjamin Watson led the group with 400 receiving yards and two touchdowns as the primary pass-catching tight end of the bunch. Josh Hill added only 185 yards and one touchdown in 2018, and UDFA Dan Arnold also caught a touchdown and hauled in 150 yards in the regular season.
After the conclusion of the 2018 season, Ben Watson retired and then subsequently un-retired to join the Rob Gronkowski-less New England Patriots. Watson’s spot in the New Orleans Saints lineup had already been filled by that time, though, as the Saints inked former Oakland Raiders tight end Jared Cook to a two-year deal. Josh Hill and Dan Arnold are both set to return with the latter competing for a roster spot with 2019 draft pick Alize Mack.
So here’s why they’re better in 2019:
On offense, tight end is the position where the Saints objectively made the largest improvement on the roster.
Gone is 39 year old Ben Watson, and in comes 32 year old Pro Bowler Jared Cook. For the Raiders last year, Cook amassed 896 receiving yards and 6 touchdowns, catching 4 of those touchdowns and averaging 50 yards per game after the trade of Amari Cooper. Once Cooper was gone, opposing defenses singled in on Cook as the only receiving option to threaten a secondary. Before the Cooper trade to the Dallas Cowboys, Cook averaged 67 yards per game. Of note, Watson averaged only 25 yards per game with the Saints in 2018, and in case you’re curious, Jimmy Graham averaged 55 yards per game in his final season in New Orleans.
But now Cook is coming to a New Orleans Saints offense led by the most accurate passer in NFL history in Drew Brees. Ted Ginn Jr went from a 57% catch rate in his final year with the Carolina Panthers to a 76% catch rate in his first year in New Orleans. Cook posted a respectable 67% catch rate last year in Oakland, a career best, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Cook set a new career mark in New Orleans this year. Add in the fact that the Saints offense also has the likes of offensive weapons Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas, and opposing defenses will not be able to key in on Cook like they could in Oakland.
The presence of Drew Brees and Michael Thomas can only help Jared Cook. If Cook was only half the player he was in 2018 for the Saints in 2019, it still would have been an improvement over what the Saints got from their tight ends in 2018. But is there anyone here expecting Cook to not be even more productive and put up even better numbers in 2019 from last year?