Tre’Quan Smith’s return could hurt Michael Thomas’ historic season
New Orleans Saints’ wide receiver Michael Thomas is on track for a historic season, but as Tre’Quan Smith’s return could be near, the history-setting aspect may be lost.
Coming into the season, the New Orleans Saints were comfortable with who they had on the edge. After signing Michael Thomas for a record-breaking extension this offseason, they’ve used him like the workhorse he signed up to be.
That wasn’t the initial plan though.
Yes, Thomas is incredible, and yes, he’s on pace for a history-setting season. Thomas is on pace to beat Marvin Harrison‘s record for receptions in a single season. Through eight games, Thomas has 73 receptions on just 89 targets, an insane 82% catch rate. Harrison’s record is 143.
However, Thomas’ usage rate hasn’t been accidental. The Saints have had no one else to target with Keith Kirkwood, Tre’Quan Smith, Jared Cook and Alvin Kamara all having missed at least a few games.
Cook and Kamara’s absence haven’t been for too long and both are expected to return to the team in Week 10. But, Smith and Kirkwood, two players that were expected to make big jumps this season, have done little to nothing and may not return after the team’s bye.
Smith has been ruled out time and time again with an ankle injury that’s just not healed ideally. When it seemed like he was healthy, Smith was again ruled out, and while it’s infuriating, Smith’s return should come in the next few weeks.
For Thomas, that could ruin his historic season.
During the nine games where Smith played over 50% of the offensive snaps last season, Thomas’ target were down compared to when Smith was injured. He was averaging just over eight targets per game with Smith on the field. Smith secured 35 receptions during those outings.
In games where Smith wasn’t used as frequently, Thomas’ targets went up to just over 11 per game last season. This season, he’s being thrown to more than any other throughout his four-year career.
That’s, in part, because of the absence of Smith and Kirkwood.
When Smith returns, Thomas’ target share may be lowered, and it may, in turn, hurt his chances to notch over 143 receptions.
For fans hoping for a history-setting season from a dominant receiver, let’s hope these numbers aren’t a trend that’ll be repeated this season.