The New Orleans Saints are amid turnover in the positions such as quarterback, linebacker, cornerback, defensive end, and defensive tackle. When it comes to their offensive personnel, everyone except Emmanuel Sanders, Jared Cook, and Josh Hill will be returning next season.
However, a specific segment of the offense can make significant strides during the post-Drew Brees era. The Saints’ wide receivers consist of Michael Thomas, Tre’Quan Smith, Marquez Callaway, and Deonte Harris. Other members of the group include Lil’Jordan Humphrey and Juwan Johnson.
Both Johnson and Humphrey were in and out of the Saints lineup last season. For the most part, both individuals are practice squad players. Last season, Emmanuel Sanders was signed to be the final piece to the Saints offense that can put them over the top and win another Super Bowl. Unfortunately, New Orleans was eliminated in the NFC divisional round versus eventual Super Bowl LIV champion the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
It seems that Sanders did not have the immediate impact on the Saints’ offense as everyone expected last season, but his numbers say otherwise. In 2020, Sanders caught 61 passes for 726 yards and five touchdown scores. Those numbers were identical to the previous season that he had with the San Francisco 49ers.
If we were to make comparisons on which team did Sanders had the most impact on in the last two seasons, it would be the 49ers. However, Sanders’s immediate effect may not have been felt due to a decline and injury-riddled Drew Brees last year. The other receivers on the Saints offense would show flashes throughout the season but were nonexistent for most of the 2020 campaign due to injuries.
One of the most significant factors that will play a part in Sean Payton determining who the starting QB will be for New Orleans will be the projected starter’s relationship with the wide receivers. When I say relationship, I refer to matters between the quarterback and wide receiver, such as timing and being comfortable throwing the football to a particular player.
Except for the last few seasons, Sean Payton’s offense is predicated on receivers who can take the top off opposing defenses. In 2021, we may finally get to see another level of Michael Thomas’s game due to having a quarterback that can effectively get the football down the field and keep defenses in a bind.
Michael Thomas is the outlier when it comes to the Saints having superstar-level wide receivers. For the most part, New Orleans has never had big names within their receiver group; however, they were well respected by prospective secondaries because of what they could do. Are the Saints wide receiver core a formidable threat right now? With the possibility of having a quarterback with a rocket arm such as Jameis Winston, the potential to be a severe threat in the passing game is there. However, health will play a huge factor in how the Saints wide receiver core will progress in 2021.
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Photo courtesy of the Associated Press.