Step 2: Know who you are
This same point was mentioned in my previous article, and it’s as true here as it was there. While the Saints need to let go of who they used to be, it is just as imperative that they discover who they are going to be. With new personnel come new wrinkles, new advantages, and a new IDENTITY.
The team must understand that what was automatic in the past won’t be now, but at the same time things they were never able to do before are now possible. The new players aren’t necessarily better, but they are unequivocally different.
Brandin Cooks is a blend of speed, quickness, and agility that is rare even among NFL caliber athletes and his combination of hands and route running make him a dynamic threat at all times. He’s able to play almost any spot, and can move the chains as easily as he can blow the top off the defense. However, he isn’t Reggie Bush and shouldn’t be used as a ‘gadget’ player. Cooks wins on savvy, speed, and timing not by being a human joystick. Payton, Brees, and Cooks really seemed to finally have developed a rhythm and a comfort together by the end of last year that I fully expect them to carry forward (and hopefully that means NO MORE REVERSES!!!).
Fleener also adds a new element as his addition will surely make many fans think of Jimmy Graham (who Fleener is actually a little faster than), but once again they are totally different players. While some members of Saints media and the angry mob – that is a disappointed fan base on Twitter in particular – dubbed Graham as soft…he never was. Graham was far from a perfect player, and never was on the level of a Rob Gronkowski, but he was an incredibly physical player who played through pain and enjoyed fabulous success while in New Orleans.
Fleener is a different type of player, and while Graham won with his frame and his physicality (R.I.P. to the Falcons goal post), Fleener wins with his smooth routes and savvy and then finishes with his deceptive athleticism (I think there is a rule somewhere that a white receiver is ‘deceptively athletic…just ask Jordy Nelson). It’s not that he is better than Graham or vise versa, but he will have to be used in a different way and will have a different impact on the Saints offense.
The offense is full of new players with new skill sets, and while I would love to go in-depth into every one of them, I don’t have the time, and I doubt any of us have the patience for a 10,000 word article. The bottom line is that the Saints have to take a look at their team from the top down and understand that the only way to maximize the talents of these new pieces is to first acknowledge that they are new.
Once they do that I have zero doubt in my mind that Payton can and will build a new offense that will focus on attacking opponents with this new identity, not forcing his players to fill roles they aren’t as well suited for. Especially now that there are enough pieces to call for a change.
Next: Step 3