NOLA Saints’ biggest ‘X-factor’ in 2022 is all too obvious

Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /

Name a current New Orleans Saints player who is both more exciting and more frustrating than Michael Thomas. We’ll wait.

Now that the whole ghosting saga is over, Thomas is set to play in his first game since 2020. He’s rightfully named the Saints’ X-factor for 2022 and carries the weight of the team’s offense on his shoulders as Thomas’ performance could make or break NOLA’s season.

This offseason, the team did pick up quality offensive pieces like Jarvis Landry and Chris Olave, yet Landry is coming off a middling season with the Browns and Olave is just a rookie.

Thomas, on the other hand, was the league’s most dangerous wide receiving threat three years ago and has extreme boom (and bust) potential: he could return to healthy form and put together a fairly productive season, or he could suffer setbacks and look like a mere shell of the player he once was.

Bleacher Report’s Gary Davenport listed every NFL team’s biggest X-factor for 2022 and picked Thomas for NOLA:

"A few years ago, New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas was considered arguably the NFL’s best player at his position. Now, it’s almost impossible to know what the Saints will get from him in 2022.The Saints drafted Ohio State wideout Chris Olave in an effort to strengthen their passing attack. But having a healthy Thomas back in action would be a big help for Jameis Winston."

New Orleans Saints desperately need Michael Thomas to succeed in 2022

What Thomas achieved in the NFL in his five-year playing career is firmly established. In 2019, he set a new record with 149 catches for 1,725 yards and won Offensive Player of the Year, and in each of the three years prior to that, Thomas strung together 1,000-plus yard receiving seasons.

An ankle injury saw Thomas regress in 2020 and miss the entirety of 2021, so 2022 is looking like his best chance to make a powerful comeback and re-assert himself in the league.

Hopefully, Thomas will be ready by training camp and can start to generate chemistry with Jameis Winston and the other wideouts. The 2022 Saints wide receiving corps looks vastly different from last season with previous starters like Marquez Callaway and Tre’Quan Smith now on the bench, and after those receivers’ pitiful 2021 performances, Saints fans can breathe a sigh of relief to see Thomas back in the lineup again.

Thomas brings a good deal of experience and talent to a Saints’ passing attack that has floundered in recent years, and whether or not he performs well this year could spell disaster or success for the team’s postseason hopes.

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For his part, Thomas has been putting in the work during his offseason rehab and seems ready to take the field in 2022 — let’s just hope he stays on it.