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Replacing former New Orleans Saints TE Jimmy Graham’s red zone production

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By trading New Orleans Saints fan favorite Jimmy Graham to the Seattle Seahawks, the Black and Gold have released a high cost player whose contract may have cost them later on. When news broke out in March of the trade, many Saints fans were in an uproar wondering how will a team that was lacking in red zone efficiency be able to replace its top end zone target.

Looking at the numbers shows why the New Orleans Saints were comfortable dumping Graham’s monster contract on Seattle. Graham’s production wasn’t the same last season as it had been in the past. In 2013, Graham had 16 touchdowns and averaged an impressive 14.1 yards per reception on his way to 1215 yards. Last season, he was still able to bring in 10 touchdowns, but couldn’t break 900 yards or 10.5 yards per reception while only catching one fewer ball. The numbers aren’t terrible, but for the highest paid tight end in the league that doesn’t block, it’s not anything to brag about either.

The hardest thing for the Saints is finding out who will step up as Drew Brees’ favorite, new end zone target. Marques Colston has had the distinction of leading the Saints in touchdown receptions in 2009 and 2011, but it seems the WR competition is as open as it has been in years. Kenny Stills has moved to the Miami Dolphins, but Brandin Cooks came up big at times in his rookie season. His size is a factor that made it hard for him to reach the end zone though.

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There’s been high praise coming from the organization this summer about Brandon Coleman, an undrafted signing from 2014. Coleman’s comparisons to Colston made for his great hands and giant frame (he’s listed at 6 foot 6, 225 pounds). Don’t sleep on tight end Josh Hill either. He didn’t get a ton of playing time, but with only 14 receptions, five of those ended as touchdowns.

Depending on if you’re buying the hype on C.J. Spiller or not, he could be the second coming of Darren Sproles for this New Orleans Saints offense. With his speed and versatility, Spiller is expected to play a similar role to what Sproles had during his time in the Big Easy. There’s still the question of Spiller’s ability to stay healthy and his ball protection has always been in issue. With Mark Ingram set as the team’s starting running back, Sean Payton will most likely use Spiller as a receiving back like he did with Reggie Bush and Sproles.

With Brees under center, the Saints will obviously find ways to get the ball into the end zone, but it will take the effort of a handful of guys to get it done. Ingram has the best chance to be the Saints’ touchdown leader this season, but in order to take the pressure off him, each guy will have to step up to replace the touchdowns that Graham made look so easy.

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