The New Orleans Saints relied on young receivers as injuries accumulated there

The New Orleans Saints will play nine of their 16 games in the 2020 regular season without receiver Michael Thomas, the NFL record holder with 149 receptions in 2019.

They played two without Emmanuel Sanders, a veteran who has received three Super Bowl appearances in his resume, including a win with Denver in the Super Bowl 50.

They had three-year-old professional Tre’Quan Smith at their disposal, but Smith was beaten up about as often – he had to leave two games with injuries – and did not practice on Wednesday due to an ankle injury.

They saw Deonte Harris, the All-Pro punt returnee and Pro Bowl kick returnee in 2019 who worked hard to become a passing factor, missed five games and counted; is currently on reserve / injured with a neck injury.

This partly explains why the numbers in the passing game for the Saints – 10-4 who entered the Christmas game against the Vikings (6-8) at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome – did not appear this season as in previous seasons. And since starting striker Drew Brees missed four games due to rib injuries and punctured lungs, it only contributed to the stitching New Orleans needed to do in the passing game.

It also meant that several young recipients were placed in roles that were unlikely to predict entry into the season.

It should be noted that free agent rookie Marquez Callaway (15 catches for 136 yards in 10 games, with 10 rebounds for 106 yards, four rebounds for 94 yards and two recoveries on missed points) influenced offense and special teams. Callaway, too, missed time with injuries as he was destined to return from an injured reserve this week after missing three games and was inactive for another game with an ankle injury.

Others needed for chipping were Lil’Jordan Humphrey (two catches for 29 yards, including a 17-yard touchdown against Kansas City) and Juwan Johnson (two catches for 16 yards), each of whom the team created as unfinished beginners.

Saints coach Sean Payton said he was encouraged by the developments he saw.

“I think it’s (going) well considering a few of them, this is their first year, without a draft,” Payton said. “In Chicago (November 1), we relied on some guys and it seems like every week, depending on the health of our players, we played a lot of players in those slot machines.

“All in all, I think they did a good job. Of course, there are things we’re working on and we want to improve. But for young players, that’s encouraging.”

Encouraging development was spurred by the encouraging words of veterans like Sanders, who said he can see the talent and potential of unsuspecting receivers on a daily basis.

“I told the guys (Tuesday) in practice, I pretty much told them that really none of you expect anything crazy, honestly,” said Sanders, who is second on the team at banquets (48) and backyards (580), and tied. for the third with four touch catches. “They say, ‘Oh, the guys from training are playing,’ and this and that. I said, ‘This is an opportunity I’m sure you’ve all prayed for on these occasions – to get a chance to play in the NFL, start in the NFL.’ u and make performances.

“And so, I told them these were the times. And I preached to them, carpe diem – seize the moment, seize the day and go out and make your shows and throw the ball. Play the physical brand of football, play fast and don’t think much. Just go out and play football because it’s something we’ve all been doing since we were at least 8 to 10 to 12. We’ve been doing this for a long time.NFL, yes, you make a lot of money on it, the media is bigger, but when you step between those lines, it’s football on at the end of the day. “

The game is a game, and Sanders sees players who are capable of playing it well.

“I see Lil’Jordan, I see Marquez, I see these guys,” he said. “These guys are good players, they just need a chance. You saw what Marquez did on his chance, the guy was balling before he got injured. And then Lil’Jordan, comes in and scores a goal – a big goal for us to give us a chance to victory in the match (against Kansas City).

“And that’s what I’m saying to these guys – man, you’re good players. The difference in the NFL, in terms of athleticism and ability to create a game, isn’t as big a gap as people think. You take a guy from training – I’ve seen guys from the training teams get a chance, and then the next thing you know they start for another team. You just never know. These are the players. I pray to God to expose it on Friday. “