Brian Allee-Walsh

It’s time for another receiving option to step up, earn their money for the Saints

Open letter to Who Dat Nation:

I admit the error of my ways.

Time and again this season, with or without quarterback Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton has shown the ability to script a successful game plan with marquee wide receiver Michael Thomas, elite running back Alvin Kamara and a hodgepodge of other pass catchers.

Thus, I no longer believe the Saints need a true No. 2 wide receiver to win Super Bowl LIV.

No true NFL-approved No. 2 WR, no problem.

Warmest regards, BAW

Nov. 7, 2019.

And if the Saints prove it during the second half of the regular season, if they can get any other pass-catcher not named Thomas, Kamara or backup running back Latavius Murray to play a complementary role in the offense, I’ll admit as much.

I raise this topic because the Saints aspire to greatness this season and the closer they move toward the ultimate goal of trying to win a second Lombardi Trophy, the more difficult it will become for the offense to be two-dimensional against stout defensive units.

Through eight games, the Saints have Open Mike with four TDs and league-highs of 73 receptions (on 89 targets) for 875 yards and no other wide receiver with more than 20 catches. Ted Ginn Jr. ranks second with 20 for 296 yards and one TD.

By comparison, three of Taysom Hill’s eight receptions have resulted in touchdowns and he’s a gadget player.

Tight end Jared Cook, wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith and Kamara are expected to come off the injury report, perhaps as early as Sunday’s divisional game against the Atlanta Falcons (1-7) at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome (noon, Fox).

Another receiving option might surface soon if wide receiver Dez Bryant pronounces himself healthy and makes himself available to sign. A year ago, Bryant’s season ended in New Orleans before it even started when he tore his Achilles tendon in practice.

Saints officials remain hopeful that Cook will justify the two-year, $15 million contract that he signed during free agency, $8 million of which is guaranteed including a $6 million signing bonus.

To date, Cook has 15 receptions (on 27 targets) for 168 yards and two TDs. Only two catches for 37 yards are collaborations with Brees, both coming in their season-opening 30-28 win against the Houston Texans.

In fact, the last two passes from Brees to Cook resulted in an INT and a noteworthy incompletion in the 27-9 loss to the Rams in LA-LA Land in Week 2. On the incompletion, Brees’ right hand and Aaron Donald’s helmet collided, resulting in a torn ulnar collateral ligament in the thumb on No. 9’s throwing hand and necessitating surgery days later.

Brees is back healthy. It appears Cook also will be in the lineup against Atlanta after missing the previous two games before the bye with an ankle injury. Cook was sidelined for Brees’ successful return against Arizona on Week 8.

Keep in mind that Brees and Cook never shared one meaningful game snap during the preseason largely because No. 9 played only eight snaps in Game 3; load management NFL style.

It’s not that Brees and Cook haven’t been on the same page through the first eight games. They can’t get on the field at the same time.

The time has come for Cook to stay healthy and step up and earn his money.

Brian Allee-Walsh, a longtime Saints reporter based in New Orleans, can be reached at sports@sunherald.com.
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