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McKnight, a good read

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; It hasn't been exactly been a case of deja-vu for Saints rookie wide receiver Rhema McKnight, but he certainly feels as if he has been here before. And for good reason. He has. Just five months ago, McKnight, then a ...

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Old 06-05-2007, 11:19 AM   #1
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McKnight, a good read

It hasn't been exactly been a case of deja-vu for Saints rookie wide receiver Rhema McKnight, but he certainly feels as if he has been here before.

And for good reason. He has.

Just five months ago, McKnight, then a member of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish football squad, didn't really give much thought to the fact that one day he would be practicing on the exact same practice fields that he is on now, hoping to earn a coveted spot on the Saints roster.

In fact, McKnight said, he and the rest of the Irish were only worrying about their preparations for the Sugar Bowl with a few practices at the Saints' training complex.

"At the time I was only concerned about preparing to play LSU," said McKnight. "But now that I look back on it, it's ironic. There couldn't be too many guys that played in a bowl game and prepared for the game in the same city that they would end up being in shortly after the draft."

In a goodwill gesture, the Saints lent their training facilities to both Notre Dame and LSU as they prepared for the nationally-televised BCS tilt.

For McKnight, it was a game that would cap a memorable college career at one of the nation's most storied institutions.

Despite completing his illustrious collegiate career as the second all-time leading receiver in Notre Dame school history with 170 career receptions (only nine shy of the school record), McKnight did not hear his name called during the 2007 NFL Draft. However, fate would intervene and opportunity, in the form of Saints' wide receivers coach Curtis Johnson, would call.

"The Saints were one of the first teams to call me," said McKnight. "I am realistic and know that there isn't really anything guaranteed to any of the rookies coming into the league as far as playing time. It is all predicated on performance and being productive."

If initial impressions are any indication of things to come, the Saints may have found something in McKnight, a 6-1 1/2, 211-pound native of southern California. Over the course of the weekend, McKnight often was on the receiving end of aerials from the four Saints' quarterbacks.

McKnight and Robert Meachem are the only rookie receivers on the Saints' roster, a rarity at this time of year in comparison to other NFL rosters.

McKnight said that while he was aware the Saints had plenty of young and hungry receivers on their roster prior to agreeing to terms with the team, he was confident that he would be afforded an opportunity to display his talents from May through August with the Saints.

"I think the coaching staff has been really helpful," McKnight said. "We go over the plays and we practice them and I feel good about what we've been able to accomplish in just the three weeks I've been here."

The Inglewood, California native also cited the ability to work against a Saints defensive backfield that features savvy veterans and a host of young, playmakers such as draftees Usama Young and David Jones, as a key reason for the development he has made since joining the NFL ranks.

"Practicing against these guys really makes you work hard and be prepared," McKnight said. "They compete for everything and they won't give you an inch out there. They make you work for everything, which is how you improve as a player."

McKnight also conceded that he has been helped by the veteran presence in the Saints' wide receiving corps, stating, "It's a very unselfish group of guys. We all want each other to succeed and you can ask anyone, from Marques (Colston), to Devery (Henderson), to David (Patten), any question and they'll help you. That has been a pleasant surprise, because we all want to be on the field."

McKnight's play thus far has pleased the vocal and demanding Johnson. "Rhema can catch the ball," Johnson said. "I knew coming out of Notre Dame that he had great hands and he's showed that so far. He's a better athlete that I thought he was when I studied him coming out of school.

"The thing that has surprised me the most is that he can really jump," Johnson continued. "He's a tall guy who can jump. That's a pretty good combination to have at any position on the field, especially at receiver."

Johnson mentioned that he feels McKnight has been greatly aided in the early transition stages from college football to the NFL by virtue of the big games and sophisticated offensive philosophy McKnight played in under Notre Dame Head Coach Charlie Weis.

"He is coming out of a very sophisticated system, with many similarities to some of the things we do," said Johnson said of Notre Dame's and the Saints' top-ranked offense last season. "He understands the game of football and a lot of the intricacies about offensive sets that young players often donᄍt have at the same stage of their careers that he has right now. That is a credit to what he learned under Charlie Weis."

While McKnight has been the beneficiary of throws from all of the Saints' quarterbacks at one time or another, early indications are that he has formed a particularly strong connection with fellow rookie free agent Tyler Palko.

And that, McKnight said, is not a coincidence.

"We played together at the Senior Bowl in Mobile in late January," McKnight said. "We also played against Pitt when I was in college and I have always respected what a tough competitor Tyler is. Then we were teammates at the Senior Bowl and got to know each other pretty well and we worked together and then when we got here with the Saints, they put us together as roommates."

McKnight said that each night the two review the Saints' playbook and discuss the various plays and designs of the plays and that time together has translated into a natural chemistry on the field.


McKnight in action for Notre Dame
At Notre Dame, McKnight earned the praise of Weis, a former offensive coordinator for the New York Jets and a winner of three Super Bowls as the offensive mastermind of the New England Patriots.

Weis, not one to throw compliments around without the hard work that goes into earning them, said the attributes that he most admired in McKnight were that, "he is a very good route runner with very good quickness and very good hands."

Weis also cited McKnight's willingness to want to be a physical presence in the running game reminded him of Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward, widely regarded as the most physical blocker from the wide receiver position in the NFL.

"The more I watch him, the more he starts to remind me of a couple of the more physical types of quickness receivers, like a Hines Ward," Weis said late last October. "Hines Ward earned a reputation of being the most physical blocker of any receiver in the country. I wouldn't say Rhema has quite gotten to that point yet, but he's capable of doing that. But he runs routes the same and he has the same type of quickness and also the same type of body type."

McKnight's ascent to the Saints roster comes on the heels of a college career that saw a few ups and downs for the one-time highly coveted prep star. McKnight seemingly had every major college in the country hot on his trail in the recruiting wars before he eventually signed with the Fighting Irish, a decision he said was made easy by the fact that he wanted to broaden his religious studies at the college level.

McKnight joined a Notre Dame team that had quite a few players on the roster that provided a clear and concise blueprint for earning success on the collegiate level. He mentioned Saints starting center Jeff Faine, as a player that he learned from in college and is happy to be reunited with as a member of the Saints.

McKnight became a contributor early in his college career and was developing rapidly and was looking forward to being a key member of Weisᄍ intricate offense in 2005, but the plans were dashed early in the 2005 season.

Against the mighty Michigan Wolverines in Ann Arbor, McKnight suffered a season-ending injury during the second game of the year when he was drilled in the left shoulder by Wolverines' defender Brandent Engelmon while McKnight was running a seam route. McKnight's right foot planted awkwardly and collapsed, the result of a right knee ligament injury that would rob him of his alleged senior season.

McKnight ended up taking a medical redshirt, a rarity at Notre Dame, and enrolled in postgraduate classes in psychology and recently completed his first year of master's level courses. In addition to his successes off the field, McKnight helped lead the Notre Dame squad to a BCS appearance in the Sugar Bowl by virtue of his 67 receptions for 907 yards and a school-record 15 touchdown receptions.

The resolve that McKnight displayed through the adversity, he said, was a product of the fact that he grew up in the tough Los Angeles neighborhood of Inglewood, Calif., where the sound of gunshots wasn't so much a rare occurrence, but rather a fact of life.

"You hear all types of things living in Inglewood," he said, "but that's just things you go through in life."

McKnight moved to Orange County at age 14, a move he said his mother made in order to afford him better opportunities in his life. "It allowed me to grow up as a person, and it allowed me to end up at Notre Dame," he said.

When asked about the charmed life a receiver leads, first catching passes from Cleveland Browns first round draft choice Brady Quinn, and now being on the receiving end of passes from Drew Brees, McKnight can only laugh and shake his head.

"There are many receivers who never the opportunity to catch passes from guys like Brady and Drew. It is a blessing, to say the least. They know how to take care of their receivers and put them in position to make plays, and at the end of the day, that's all a receiver can ask for."


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Old 06-05-2007, 11:24 AM   #2
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Good read/post.
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Old 06-06-2007, 12:45 AM   #3
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I think this kid is going to stick around, not only make the final roster, but contribute early. We need a physical blocking receiver down field, and I guarantee Deuce and Reggie will appreciate that when they break through to the secondary.
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Old 06-06-2007, 01:10 AM   #4
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very good read.

i liked him and thought he was gonna go at least the 5th round, the guy winds up in our hands as an udfa. major steal for us, has great hands, and quickness. i didnt know he could block as good as they say, i wouldnt mind keeping him over copper, and getting something in return for copper
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Old 06-06-2007, 01:15 AM   #5
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I really like the fact that the kid can catch the rock. I see alot of WRs out there who can run a 4.2 with butterfingers. No good. I think Payton will grow quite fond of McKnight if he continues to show he has the hands and is willing to work hard.
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Old 06-06-2007, 01:19 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by WillMacKenzie View Post
I really like the fact that the kid can catch the rock. I see alot of WRs out there who can run a 4.2 with butterfingers. No good. I think Payton will grow quite fond of McKnight if he continues to show he has the hands and is willing to work hard.
uh huh, he wont make the team if he doesnt play special teams. anyone remember mike hass? similar to mcknight in recieving, but when it came down to it, he didnt play payton's joy
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Old 06-06-2007, 01:23 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by D24pick View Post
uh huh, he wont make the team if he doesnt play special teams. anyone remember mike hass? similar to mcknight in recieving, but when it came down to it, he didnt play payton's joy
true, and I liked him >: (
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Old 06-06-2007, 05:50 AM   #8
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The saints try to sign Hass after he was cut to the PS but it did not happen. End of story.
The one area of recieving that worries the most is over the middle. You do not have to fast but quick and bit on the crazy side to make aliving in the 10 to 15 yard range in that part of the field. McKnight might be the guy for that position. He seems to have the attitude for it.
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Old 06-06-2007, 11:33 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by D24pick View Post
very good read.

i liked him and thought he was gonna go at least the 5th round, the guy winds up in our hands as an udfa. major steal for us, has great hands, and quickness. i didnt know he could block as good as they say, i wouldnt mind keeping him over copper, and getting something in return for copper
I see Copper sticking around for a while because of his value on special teams. I personally don't like him as a receiver, but see him as a 4 or 5. Jones is pretty solid on ST also, so he might make it before Moore or McKnight

We have the quantity at WR, but we really won't see what we have with quality/consistency/health until training camp is well under way.
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Old 06-06-2007, 01:44 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by biloxi-indian View Post
Despite completing his illustrious collegiate career as the second all-time leading receiver in Notre Dame school history with 170 career receptions (only nine shy of the school record), ...67 receptions for 907 yards and a school-record 15 touchdown receptions.
The bold print above is what stands out to me. He did this at Notre Dame. That's a lofty achievement when you consider Tim Brown, Rocket Ishmail and recently Samardzija went there.
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