The wide receiver situation for the New Orleans Saints is in a very odd spot at the moment. With Michael Thomas eating up the vast majority of the targets last year and the new addition of Emmanuel Sanders, it’s hard to imagine the Saints have enough targets to go around. After signing Bennie Fowler, the Saints’ wide receiving corps has only become more crowded.
Fowler has the potential to usurp Tre’Quan Smith’s No. 3 spot in the receiver rotation, but with Smith being five years younger and the two of them putting up similar stats, he may have a tall task ahead of him. The Saints offense is unarguably merit-based, so Fowler will have his chances.
To figure out where Fowler fits in the Saints’ offense, we need to see what he does well first. Generally the New York Giants used Fowler in short-intermediate routes, which does him a lot of favors in a Saints’ West Coast Offense that loves to use them.
These types of plays are the ones where New Orleans is most likely to get Fowler some reps. He runs an easy sieve route and the Dallas Cowboys forget about the flat in their zone coverage. It’s a simply designed play that draws the defense away from Fowler’s portion of the field. If he shows maneuverability in space he’ll undoubtedly have a place in the Saints’ offense.
With that being said, Fowler isn’t terribly effective at creating space downfield. At 6-foot-1 and 212 pounds, he doesn’t have the size to shield players off.
There are a lot of issues with this play in particular. Fowler’s route is flat, he allows himself to get undercut by a shadowing Josh Norman, and he doesn’t do anything to really keep himself in front of Norman. Now, to Fowler’s credit, this ball is also slightly under-thrown, but the moments leading up to the throw aren’t exactly in his favor.
All things told, it’s entirely possible that we won’t see much of Fowler this year. His stats next to Smith’s aren’t exactly favorable. Smith has four more touchdowns than Fowler in three fewer years in the league, and he’s on a similar trajectory in receptions and yards. To play devil’s advocate for Fowler, of course, he had just one year with the ghost of Peyton Manning before being saddled with the Denver Broncos and Giants’ quarterback graveyards for the past five years.
Perhaps Drew Brees can bring out the best in Fowler. The Saints signing Fowler is telling. They don’t feel comfortable with their receiver depth. They want to give Brees a chance to proliferate like the days of old. Most importantly, they never want Thomas to break his own receiving record. It’s too many touches for one player in an offense that relies on a lot of talent.
Fowler will be a situational player for New Orleans. He doesn’t create much space downfield, but he does well in space. The Saints have sorely lacked that in recent seasons, so packaged with Sanders he could be dangerous. It’ll all be about how Sean Payton values his skill set.