New Orleans Saints: Why Michael Thomas is the team’s most irreplaceable player

Michael Thomas, Saints. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Michael Thomas, Saints. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /

Saints Offense Without Drew Brees

When Thomas it out, the Saints still have talented playmakers, so the drop-off shouldn’t be as severe as it is. However, with Drew Brees out, they’re turning to a 30-year-old undrafted free agent in Taysom Hill.

Yet, even in the past three games, New Orleans has averaged 25.3 points/game, and still rate as above-average in yards/play; that’s despite a conservative offensive approach against the Broncos in Week 12 that skews their overall offensive numbers.

That says a lot about head coach Sean Payton. In terms of Wins Above Replacement, Brees may be the most valuable player on the Saints team.

Yet, he also comes with his limitations. His average depth of target is the lowest in the NFL, meaning that the offense is rather one-dimensional with him and relies exclusively on efficiency. With Taysom Hill, that efficiency may not be there, but they’ve been much more successful when it comes to producing big plays.

Payton has done a great job limiting the gap between Brees to Hill; Hill is nowhere near the quarterback Brees is, yet the offense is much more versatile, and thus still very difficult to defend.

When Brees missed five games last season, New Orleans essentially tried to replicate his production with Teddy Bridgewater in the exact same style of offense.

The transition was rough, but Bridgewater ultimately went 5-0 as a starter and posted a career-high 7.5 adjusted net yards/attempt, which he was able to parlay into a $63 million contract from the division-rival Panthers.

In other words, Payton is an absolute genius, and few offensive minds can match his ability to get the maximum production from whatever quarterback is under center, even if said quarterback doesn’t play particularly well.

The amount of early-down play-action passes he has utilized with Hill and Bridgewater speaks to that, and is really is a testament to him building a foundation that should give Saints fans a lot of hope in a post-Brees world.