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 wide receivers!
To view previous parts, see below:
The New Orleans Saints’ wide receivers were abysmally mediocre in 2018 beyond Michael Thomas. Michael Thomas finished the year with 1,405 receiving yards, his third consecutive season over 1,000 receiving yards. Unfortunately, all other Saints receiving combined failed to top the 1,000-yard mark. Tre’Quan Smith was the Saints second leading wide receiver with only 427 receiving yards on the season, and Ted Ginn Jr was third (though he missed 11 games last season due to injury) with 209.
So here’s why they’re better in 2019:
To the surprise of many, the Saints declined the opportunity thus far to bring in another wide receiver via the 2019 NFL Draft or free agency. As it stands, that means we’re not dealing with a change in personnel per se (aside from what 2019 UDFAs like Lil’Jordan Humphrey and Emmanuel Butler could provide), so how could we say they’re going to be better in 2019?
For one, health. As noted above, Ted Ginn Jr. was forced to miss 11 games due to injury last year. But while Ginn will be entering his age 34 season, Cameron Meredith will be only 27 come the 2019 regular season. Meredith missed 10 games himself last year after being placed on IR, but he’s still on the good side of 30, and there’s still a chance we haven’t seen the best Meredith can provide in the NFL.
In addition to a healthy Ginn and Meredith, the young guys should all take various degrees of steps forward in 2019. We’re talking here about 2018 3rd round pick Tre’Quan Smith and 2018 UDFA Keith Kirkwood. Both showed flashes of potential stardom in 2018, but neither was able to produce consistently enough and generate enough routine separation from opposing defenders as the season went on.
But I would say the biggest reason we should see improvement from the Saints wide receivers is due to the presence of Jared Cook at tight end. Cook is a Pro Bowl-caliber pass catcher who amassed 896 receiving yards last year in Oakland. Cook lined up in the slot for New Orleans will force opposing defenses to not be able to focus primarily on Michael Thomas. This should also free up New Orleans’ second and third WR options more frequently as opposing defenses will now be placing their third and fourth best defenders on Kirkwood, Meredith, and Ginn as opposed to their second-best defender.