It’s clear that New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas’s 2020 was not representative of his usual production. After a high-ankle sprain suffered at the end of the week one win against the eventual Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Thomas was never able to get back to 100% and therefore the dominating presence he has proven to be.
ESPN gives Michael Thomas the #8 ranking on their top-ten wide receivers list after holding the #2 spot ahead of 2020.
Maybe Thomas, our No. 2 receiver last year, can regain a top spot, but a bizarre year of injuries and production decline resulted in a rankings free fall.
One year removed from pacing the NFL in receiving yards with 1,725 as well as setting the NFL record with an astonishing 149 catches, his production took an understandable hit in 2020 as he wrestled with injury. 40 catches for 438 yards and no touchdowns was not the regular season stat line anyone had expected from one of the league’s top threats, certainly not what Thomas had expected.
Though he did put up two 100+ yard games in each of the Atlanta Falcons contests. Proving that even while trying to shake a high-ankle sprain, (among other injuries that led to offseason surgery) one can remain entirely on-brand.
The former Ohio State Buckeye is even rumored to have shut himself down at the end of the season, going on injured reserve for three games heading into the playoffs. That way he could be as healthy as possible going into the postseason in trying to send Drew Brees off with a ring.
In the Saints’ opening 2020 playoff matchup against the Chicago Bears he grabbed his first touchdown of the year, subsequently becoming the first player “slimed” with the Nickelodeon broadcast.
Although that performance was tough to follow up on in a catchless game against the Bucs in the playoffs, there’s good news for Thomas heading into the 2021 season and reason for optimism. Head Coach Sean Payton gave an update on the star receiver at minicamps.
“[Michal Thomas is] here and been participating. He looks good. You still monitor it, pay attention to it and scan it and all those things. He’s receiving treatment and doing the things necessary. So, so far, so good.”
Thomas has been focused on his recovery all offseason. While many players have been noted for their participation in potential starting quarterback Jameis Winston’s workouts, questions had circulated about why Thomas was not present. Simply put, why risk it? Thomas has an enormous contract, is coming off of very complicated injuries and surgery, and is focused on his regiment and recovery for the 2021 season.
While getting back to 149 catches becomes at least a little less farfetched with a 17th game, Thomas shouldn’t be expected to get back to those numbers in 2021. However, he should be expected to be a 100+ catch target yet again. At the moment, he’s the only proven go-to receiving option the Saints have on the roster outside of Alvin Kamara. Weapons like Tre’Quan Smith, Adam Trautman, Deonte Harris, and others have all shown flashes and had moments. But Thomas is the only pass-catcher with a resume like his. The Saints have had only three triple-digit catch receivers in franchise history. All of them are Michael Thomas.
Saints' Michael Thomas now has 482 career catches, most by an NFL player in their first five seasons. Jarvis Landry previously held the record at 481.— John Hendrix (@JohnJHendrix) November 22, 2020
Michael Thomas, when healthy, is a force unto himself. The ESPN piece is slightly banking on his return to form, while hedging based on the Saints’ quarterback situation. However, regardless of whether Winston or Taysom Hill are taking the snaps, Thomas should still get his targets.
A quote from ESPN’s piece:
“Playing to his strengths means he needs an accurate quarterback, and Drew Brees is the most accurate quarterback in history,” an AFC exec said. “Brees was perfect for him.”
Taysom Hill threw to Thomas 37 times over the four games he started, including six times in a game against the Denver Broncos in which there was no opposing starting quarterback.
Meanwhile, Jameis Winston before the 2019 season had targeted outside receivers 43.1% of the time, second-most during a ten year-span despite having only been in the league for four years at that point.
Thomas, in fact, averaged 7.5 catches and 85.8 receiving yards per game with Hill in at QB. In 2019, he averaged 8.4 catches and 110.2 yards over five games with Teddy Bridgewater.
To assume Thomas won’t produce without Drew Brees is a little diminishing of Thomas’s achievements with and without the Hall of Famer thus far. Plus, this is still Sean Payton’s system. A system for which the 6’3”, 212 lbs. Michael Thomas is a perfect receiver.
Do you think Michael Thomas will reclaim a top spot at WR this season? Let us know your thoughts in the comment. Make sure you follow Canal Street Chronicles on Twitter at @SaintsCSC , “Like” us on Facebook at Canal Street Chronicles, and make sure you’re subscribed to our new YouTube channel. As always, you can follow me on Twitter @RossJacksonNOLA and subscribe to my daily Saints podcast, Locked On Saints and checkout the Locked On Saints YouTube channel.