Bringing back a series of pieces from the past few years, we’ll be checking out each position group on the New Orleans Saints and discussing how they improve the Saints’ chances of making a Super Bowl run. We’ll start with the receivers...
It’s no secret that New Orleans was injured everywhere last year. Not having All-Pro WR Michael Thomas set the team back more than a few steps, and the piling injuries made it all seem almost insurmountable. Thomas was ranked No. 5 in the annual NFL Top 100, in 2020, and we’ve barely seen him on or off the field since. He’s been adamant on investing in the recovery process and looks to be fully healthy well before the season starts. You get your guy back who's the cream of the crop.
First round pick Chris Olave will bring instant production to the team and most likely take the role of WR2, giving OC Pete Carmichael a multitude of ways to scheme him open. Not only will Olave prosper off scheme, but he’s also a guy who routinely won 1 on 1 matchups, as separation was never an issue for him. Add onto the fact that Michael Thomas is back drawing opponents’ best cornerback every week, Olave could definitely be due for a few games where he explodes. His route tree is complete at every level, he wins 50-50 balls, and the 4.3 speed is the icing on the cake.
Signing Jarvis Landry was the last addition that seemed to give this offense a feel for something special. We all know what Juice can do. Now he’s in a situation where he can play freely, not drawing as much attention as he's used to. This means he's facing cornerbacks lower in the depth chart weekly, on top of being given more opportunities to win one-on-one matchups in tons of space. The ceiling and security Landry brings Jameis seems to be an underrated move, and I expect the significance to be more exposed in clutch moments this season.
Marquez Callaway and Deonte Harty found themselves in unfamiliar roles on a weekly basis, with opposing teams’ best cornerbacks facing them. Now, both guys will have a huge chunk of the load taken off their backs. Hardy comes off as a gadget guy, but his route tree is more fluid than given credit for and he can outrun anyone. He’s good after the catch and should still see volume even with added pieces being the go-to guys. The same goes for Callaway, he’ll have ample opportunities to make plays. Being that he was in unfamiliar territory all season last year, going against everyone’s CB1... I think he's also bound to make some big plays in clutch moments.
The eye test for this receiving corps is that it can be as good as anyone in the league. When guys like Callaway and Harty are your WR4/WR5, you're in great shape. Some could refute pointing out Olave hasn't played an NFL snap or that Landry could be on the ‘decline,’ but those would both be surface level statements. Olave will be set up for tons of success and he’ll deliver. He was the consensus top 3 receiver in a top-heavy draft and a lot of people’s no.1, and rightfully so. Jarvis Landry is only 29, with prime years left. He’s surrounded with talent and speed, now he can play his role in the underneath/intermediate game. Although this doesn't mean he can't take the top off of a defense. He should find success sitting in zones, in the slot or outside, or he can simply find it by beating his guy. Carmichael will get creative with Landry, and I expect him to make himself comfortable in the end zone this year.
When you add onto the fact that the Saints arguably have the best running back in football and he should be the main priority for opposing defenses (if they’re smart), these receivers should have endless opportunities to feast on secondaries.