Saints Still Looking for Critical Third Receiver
There was a commercial recently that featured the three top wideouts for New England, each saying: "I thought I was Tom Brady's favorite receiver."
It's funny, because it's true.
The Patriots seem to have a different gamebreaking target every week. Some of the league's best offenses ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€Â including, of course, Indianapolis ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€Â also use a three-wide scheme to put up explosive numbers.
That tests defenses. It also opens up the running game ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€Â something the New Orleans Saints hope to do with a playmaker like Deuce McAllister in the backfield.
Nos. 1 and 2 are set ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€Â that would be Joe Horn and Donte' Stallworth. It's the critical No. 3 spot that's still up for grabs as the Saints prepare to open training camp later this month.
Coach Jim Haslett has said that he knows what he's looking for, even if he hasn't exactly found it just yet.
"Well, he's got to play more of the inside slot position," Haslett said of the No. 3 spot. "He's not outside. He's going to be banged around; he's going to have to be able to go across the middle. He's going to have to catch in crowds. He's going to have to be quick enough to separate himself from probably their best cover guy inside, and there's also linebackers involved. So, you got to block some."
The camp battle features LSU product Devery Henderson, a second-round pick in the 2004 NFL Draft, and the newly acquired free agent Az-Zahir Hakim.
Hakim, entering his eighth NFL season, was given a one-year deal. What that means for Henderson, who only saw action in one game last season but still has yet to make a catch in a professional contest, is unclear.
To the power of three
Multi-receiver sets have flourished as the rules of professional football changed.
At the onset of the 1980s, defenders saw restrictions instituted that limited contact with receivers, among other things, in an effort to increase scoring.
Washington coach Joe Gibbs was the first to take full advantage of the changes, adapting an offense that set up the run with the pass.
Fail to react, and there are mismatches. In a base defense, for instance, a linebacker ended up playing the slot receiver.
Overreact, and there are misfortunes of a different sort. Defenses that load the secondary have to send thick, run-stuffing linemen to the bench, leaving teams vulnerable to rushing attacks.
Art Monk, Gary Clark and Ricky Sanders were the prototypical 1-3 receivers at Washington, and the team always had a running back who could gain tough yards.
Before it was over, the Redskins had won multiple titles. Reason: Their best playmakers rarely left the field.
"Ask yourself: Is it better to have the third wide receiver on the field instead of the fullback or a second tight end?" asks Pat Kirwan of NFL.com. "Look at Detroit, for instance: Do you think opponents want to see fullback Cory Schlesinger, second tight end Casey Fitzsimmons ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€Â or wide receiver Mike Williams?ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬?
Other variations have come and gone ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€Â including the famous run-and-shoot offense featuring four receivers, one running back and no tight end. But the three-receiver set has never lost its luster.
Rules designed to stop the so-called ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã…Â“illegal chuckÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬? have become a point of emphasis again ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€Â and thatÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s sent receivers streaking downfield almost unhindered.
How unhindered? Three receivers with Indianapolis finished the season with an eye-popping 1,000 yards apiece.
But because this look includes a running back, Edgerrin James still rushed for 1,548 yards ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€Â putting the Colts rusher at No. 4 in the NFL.
A deep talent pool
The conventional wisdom is that New Orleans wouldnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢t have signed Hakim to be anything other than the No. 3. At the very least, heÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s a solid insurance policy on Henderson.
Hakim, playing for St. Louis and Detroit, has 265 career receptions for 3,555 yards and 26 touchdowns, primarily as a No. 3 with the Rams. He was originally a fourth-round pick out of San Diego State in 1998.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã…Â“Having Az-Zahir only increases the competition we have at wide receiver,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬? said Saints general manager Mickey Loomis. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã…Â“He is an established player who has shown he can be an important part of an offense throughout his career. We wanted to add a proven veteran to the mix at the position and we have with this move.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬?
Henderson, meanwhile, has battled injury ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€Â and reportedly has had trouble with the complicated terminology of the pro playbook.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã…Â“Devery started really well in the off season and then he pulled a hamstring and missed a couple weeks,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬? Haslett said. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã…Â“But I think heÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s finally coming back, heÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s finally getting back in tune with what heÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s doing. HeÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s catching the ball much better than he did at this time last year. HeÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s running good routes. HeÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s just going to have to get in a comfort zone playing. When we get in the preseason, heÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s going to have to play a lot of games.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬?
Among the other hopefuls going into training camp are Talman Gardner, Nate Poole and Grambling State product Thyron Anderson, who had a stellar career in the Canadian Football League.
Haslett said he wonÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢t make a decision about the No. 3 until camp is underway.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã…Â“ItÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s way too early to decide any of that ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€Â who going to make the team, whoÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s not going to make the team, whoÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s separating themselves,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬? he said. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã…Â“Right now weÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢re working Talman and Devery in there with DonteÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢ (Stallworth) and Joe (Horn). And Nate Poole will get some reps also.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬?
RE: Saints Still Looking for Critical Third Receiver
hakim will start if he dosen't then why did we sign him ?
RE: Saints Still Looking for Critical Third Receiver
I voted for Poole. Realistically, I think it will be very difficult for him to beat out Hakim and Devery just b/c of their names. That said, I think ultimately Poole will give us the best option at the 3 spot, as he is large and generally sure-handed. Hopefully, by mid-season, he's taken the 3rd spot.
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