The Saints placed Smith on injured reserve on Thursday, which means he’ll miss at least the first three games of the season. Deonte Harris will likely take his spot in the starting lineup alongside Marquez Callaway, who will be expected to reproduce some of his preseason magic against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.
Smith has been battling a hamstring injury since early August, and his recent assignment to the injured list only makes it harder for him to come back from a whole summer’s worth of sitting on the bench.
We once proposed Smith to be a breakout candidate in the 2021 season, and while he still has a shot at claiming the No. 1 wide receiver position, his future in New Orleans is slowly slipping out of his hands.
After three mediocre seasons, Year 4 had to be the one for Smith. The Saints didn’t bring on a veteran wideout in the offseason (well, Chris Hogan, but he doesn’t really count), which Smith took notice of and appreciated.
Smith is coming off one of his more productive seasons yet with 448 receiving yards and four touchdowns on 34 catches, but given Michael Thomas missing time in 2020, everyone wondered whether Smith could have done better.
If Thomas’ dominance in 2019 overshadowed Smith, Smith had absolutely no excuse in 2020, when he started in 10 games and played 14 in total. Yet Smith ended the year with just 10 more receiving yards than Thomas, who played in half as many games as he did.
New Orleans Saints wideout Tre’Quan Smith needs to bounce back quickly in 2021
So far, the numbers don’t favor Smith. His prolific collegiate career at Central Florida may have given him a boost three years ago, when he was picked by New Orleans in the third round of the draft, but his production levels in the pro league has only elicited shaking heads.
Smith’s continued absence leaves wide receiver spots up for grabs among Callaway, Harris, Hogan, and Lil’Jordan Humphrey. The others may not possess Smith’s unrealized talent, but at least they have relatively consistent game performances to show for their hard work and improvement this offseason.
The longer Smith remains sidelined, the more time and chances other receivers get to take his place, and New Orleans may start to realize Smith is more disposable than they previously thought.
The most tragic part is that had he been healthy, Smith may have actually exploded onto the scene this year. With Jameis Winston already proving what he can do with Callaway in preseason, Smith was no doubt thinking on the bench, “That could have been me. That should have been me.”
Maybe Smith is right, but “could haves” and “should haves” don’t win starting spots, or games for that matter.
Smith will need nothing short of a miracle to make up for lost time. His career depends on it.