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Saints hoping Chris Hogan can channel his 2016 self

Once upon a time, Chris Hogan was second in the league in yards per reception. Five years later, it’s hard to believe he can replicate this effectiveness.

NFL: Preseason-Carolina Panthers at New England Patriots Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

With the recent signing of wide receiver Chris Hogan, it’s evident the New Orleans Saints are desperate for help at the receiver position.

Michael Thomas is expected to miss a substantial amount of time after having surgery on his ankle and Deonte Harris might be out for the first game or two of the season after getting arrested in mid-July for driving under the influence of alcohol.

This leaves Tre’Quan Smith, Marquez Callaway and Adam Trautman as the primary pass-catchers on an already-thin roster when it comes to skill position depth.

So, as part of an effort to bolster this depth, the Saints recently went out and signed Chris Hogan — the former Jets, Panthers, Patriots and Bills receiver. At nearly 33 years old, Hogan was most recently playing lacrosse, not football. But a call from NOLA changed that and now he’s looking to re-ignite the deep threat flame that once burned bright in New England.

After becoming a perennial 400-500 yard-per-season WR in Buffalo in 2014-2015, Hogan took his talents to Tom Brady, where he had the best tenure of his career.

In three seasons of regular and postseason play combined, he racked up nearly 2,200 receiving yards on over 15 yards per reception.

In his best season — 2016 — Hogan recorded 1,012 yards and six touchdowns in the regular season and playoffs combined, while nabbing 71.4% of his targets. His 18.4 yards per catch ranked 2nd in the league that year among WRs with at least 50 targets.

NFL: Super Bowl LIII-New England Patriots vs Los Angeles Rams Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Most of his production came as a deep threat. There were a ton of seam routes, crossing routes, deep posts and go balls that contributed to that high YPC number. And as a counter, he ran the comeback route pretty effectively as well.

The only question is if he still has the speed to be a potent deep threat. This isn’t to say that he’s always been a track star as a runner. He often got open deep in New England not only because of his speed, but because of a good understanding of body positioning that allowed him to set defenders up before he used his adequate speed to go by them (it also helped having Tom Brady throwing him the rock).

While I don’t think Hogan is going to have the same impact he had as a Patriot if he makes the Saints roster, I do think it’s conceivable he could repeat the type of production he had in Buffalo.

See, in Buffalo Hogan was more of a slot receiver. In his last two seasons in Buffalo, over 64% of his snaps came from the slot. Whereas in New England, that mark was well under 50%.

In these seasons, his route tree consisted of much more hitches, slants and short patterns. And he was usually just above 400 yards receiving in those seasons with a much lower YPC — 12.5 in 2015.

The last two seasons are harder to judge, as he had wildly inconsistent quarterback play on a very small sample size.

If Hogan can combine these two versions of himself as a Saint, he might have a chance to catch a few balls.

Ideally, he can come in and be a stabilizing, reliable force with flexibility in the slot and outside as a 3rd or 4th receiving option.

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