May 29, 2014; Metairie, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints wide receiver Marques Colston (12) and wide receiver Kenny Stills (84) run with teammates during offseason team activities at the New Orleans Saints Training Facility. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

New Orleans Saints Position Battles: Wide Receiver

With training camp around the corner, New Orleans Saints players are jockeying for position on the depth chart. Today, we look at the wide receiver group.

The depth chart is pretty set at the top, with Marques Colston, Kenny Stills and rookie Brandin Cooks.

Colston battled a couple nagging injuries last season, but still managed to put up numbers close to his norm: 75 catches, 943 yards and five touchdowns. He remains Drew Brees’ favorite target over the middle, and has recently said that the injuries are completely behind him. If he can stay healthy, there’s no reason to believe that he can’t improve on his numbers from last year, and get closer to his season totals from 2009-2013.

Stills is a bit more of a wildcard. After being selected in the fifth round in the 2013 NFL Draft, the kid started to turn heads in training camp and eventually emerged as a deep threat in the Saints offense. He finished the 2013 season with 32 catches, for 641 yards (good for an NFL-best 20.0 yards per catch), and five scores. Those numbers gave the Saints enough confidence to release Lance Moore, all but cementing Stills as the number two receiver heading into 2014.

And then there’s Sean Payton’s new toy, Brandin Cooks. If you thought it was hard to predict what Stills’ 2014 will look like, figuring out Cooks is nearly impossible. However, one thing seems clear: the Saints want to get the ball in his hands. You can read our profile of Cooks here, but if there’s one thing you’ve got to know about the Oregon State product, it’s that he can run. Really, really fast. Because of this—and his great hands—many have predicted that Cooks will see a lot of screen passes, and get some of the looks that Darren Sproles got the last couple seasons.

That’s where the certainty of the New Orleans receiving corps ends, though. The real battle in this position group is for the fourth and fifth spots, between Robert Meachem, Nick Toon and Joe Morgan. All three of these guys have positives and negatives to their games, and this is sure to be one of the tightest and most important battles as we head into the 2014 season.

Meachem’s biggest plus is his blocking ability. The Saints love to run quick pitches, and because of that, they need to have faith in their blocking out wide. That said, you can’t ignore the fact that Meachem just simply isn’t effective in the passing game as anything but a deep threat.

Toon is an intriguing player, as he had an excellent preseason last year, but fizzled when given a shot during the regular season (I’m sure Who Dat Nation remembers his backbreaking drops in the Saints loss to the Jets last year). What Toon has going for him most of all, however, is the backing of the coaching staff. Sean Payton is on record saying, “I would expect him to play a bigger role for our offense this year.”

Then there’s Joe Morgan. After having a mini-breakthrough in 2012 (379 yards on only 10 catches), he was lost for all of 2013 after tearing his ACL in the preseason—an injury that required two surgeries. Morgan is known as a speedster. However, with Cooks, and Charles Hawkins on the roster, the Saints now have plenty of speed out wide.

Projected depth chart:

1. Marques Colston, 2. Kenny Stills, 3. Brandin Cooks, 4. Nick Toon, 5. Robert Meachem

Look, the top three spots are locked up. But the battle after those spots is where things get interesting. The way I see it, the upside of Toon gets him a spot, and will get him some looks in the passing game, while Meachem’s blocking ability will land him on the roster as well.

For Morgan, this might be the end of the road. The Saints have some interesting younger receivers who should land on the practice squad (Hawkins, Brandon Coleman and Seantavius Jones in particular), and could leap past Morgan on the depth chart based on potential alone.

 

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