This week, I will be discussing the receiver play from this past season. For most of the season, the wide receiver play was pretty inconsistent to say the least. This ranges from dropped passes to fumbles. I expect to see a much more explosive WR core in 2013 due to a few things. For one, Sean Payton, as we all know, is returning and he's bringing his "no-BS" attitude with him. That attitude that I just mentioned will definitely help the personnel out tremendously because of Payton's competitiveness and will to win. Secondly, the Saints have several receivers that didn't play very much, if at all, last season. Nick Toon was one of the bigger headlines going into the season for the Saints, but he didn't play at all in the regular season due to being placed on the IR. Nick Toon's measurable features (height, weight, 40-time, etc.) are ridiculously similar to that of Marques Colston. The one difference, however, is that Nick Toon can run up to a sub-4.4 40-yard dash time. That's pretty fast for someone who is almost the stature of Colston.
Speaking of Colston…
I expect MUCH better play out of the Saints' star receiver next season. Colston almost had a career-high in yards, touchdowns, and receptions (1154, 10, 83 respectively); but also had a career high in fumbles (4) and fumbles lost (tied at 2). When Colston is in the game, he's very hard to stop, but like any athlete: if they can't get into the game, they're hard to get going. Along with the fumbles and fumbles lost, another frustrating stat is that Colston had 9 drops. I know it's splitting hairs to an extent, but he tied for 4th in the league with drops. That can't happen when you're in the NFL. The Saints need their star wideout from a couple years ago.
The other receivers played somewhat poorly for New Orleans. Racking up a total of 1,745 yards and only 10 touchdowns between the 4 of the other wideouts (Lance Moore, Devery Henderson, Courtney Roby, and Joe Morgan). Those stats combined between 4 receivers is not very good at all. That means that opposing defenses can kind of expect who the Saints will throw the ball to in crucial situations. I know Brees spreads the ball around, and the stats don't really reflect that, but in my opinion, it's kind of a 2-way street. The receivers have to get open down the field, and Brees has to stop forcing passes, which he was guilty of doing a couple times last year (another topic for another day).
Going into the Tight End group, the Saints have one of the best in the league in Jimmy Graham. Graham didn't play up to his standards last season. Playing in 15 games, whilst only starting 9 of them; Graham racked up 982 yards and 9 TDs on 85 catches. These stats don't reflect how frustratingly he played at times. He led the league in drops with 14 due in part because of a bum wrist at the end of the season. The other part is I think that he tries to go for the "SportsCenter" catches (as Brees called it in a sound bite from 2011) and often times, it doesn't work out. Trying finesse catches is nice if you're winning by a respectable margin, but if the game is still close, avoid the theatrics. Switching to the other Tight End, David Thomas filled in for Graham when he was out with an injury or just taking a breather. Thomas is more of a goal-line tight end as far as the passing game, and more of a blocking tight end outside of the goal-line. Thomas only racked up 86 yards and 4 TDs on 11 catches. Not too shabby, although I would like to see him (or another Tight End) get involved with the passing game a little more. If that happened, it would allow the Saints to have a dual-TE threat and everyone knows how effective that can be if run right, just look at New England.
In my last article, I mentioned very briefly the catching skills of Darren Sproles, PT, and Mark Ingram. Darren Sproles has the best out of the bunch of catching out of the backfield. In fact, I think that's what the Saints use Sproles for more-so than running the ball because it makes defenses game plan around another weapon because of his speed and elusiveness. Sproles racked up 667 yards, and 7 TDs on 75 catches, as a running back! That's impressive, considering he also runs the ball. That's why I think the Saints should just move him to slot receiver, because his catching skills are so much more of a threat to defenses than his running skills. PT and Ingram are the check-down backs that occasionally get the ball when there's nothing else open down-field. The two of these backs racked up 383 yards and 1 TD on a total of 45 catches. That's why I figure that the Saints should allow these 2 guys step into their roles as the only backs on the roster. Then, they could evenly split carries, and they are able to catch out of the backfield, if need-be.
Overall, I'm not ecstatic about how the Saints' receivers played last season, but I'm not clamoring for a major change, because I know that it could all change very quickly. As for the future, I'm excited to see what is in store for next season, considering all the weapons the Saints possess, and the return of Payton (I can't stress enough about how much this will help).