Column: Rookie could add much to Saints

Tre'Quan Smith lays out for a catch while at Central Florida.

The New Orleans Saints are back in camp, and that means the season is but a scant few weeks away.

We could wait for that first game to kick off before getting hyped up and dissecting the team’s ins and outs, but what’s the fun in that? So here are some scattered thoughts on the reports and water cooler talk coming out of Airline Drive.

Most encouraging report: That rookie Tre’Quan Smith is already flashing among receivers.

The Saints, as great as the offense was once again last year, could use another weapon in the passing game. Top wideout Michael Thomas and a running back corps led by Alvin Kamara did incredible work last season in the passing game, and Ted Ginn Jr. provided the big play threat down the field, as he has throughout his career.

But Ginn is 33 now, and having a backup plan in place in the form of Smith, with his 4.4 speed and collegiate resume as a major downfield playmaker, would be a positive. If he can truly breakout as a rookie and give defenses another major headache? It would be very big for this team …

… but Michael Thomas is still the alpha dog here. Anyone watching the highlights of his that have been posted to Twitter in recent days can attest to that. When Thomas was drafted, he was considered a fine athlete whose on-field production numbers didn’t necessarily jump off the page at you, given the deep wealth of talent Ohio State had around him.

He was also known as a workaholic who would never rest on his laurels, and he’s already beloved in New Orleans for what he’s brought in this team’s biggest moments. Last season’s … ugh … Divisional Round loss in Minnesota saw him beat coverage, much of it from one of the NFL’s elite in Xavier Rhodes, over and over again in the second half as the Saints mounted their rally. When Carolina and Minnesota set out to take away the Saints devastating running attack in the playoffs, Drew Brees and Thomas came out to play — Thomas racked up 15 catches, 216 yards and a pair of touchdowns over his two games, and seems to be leveling up again this season.

Mental toughness: Marcus Williams is also reportedly turning in a strong camp so far, and that’s not insignificant.

After a fantastic rookie year, Williams had the spotlight on him for what threatens to be a career-defining play, if he allows it to be, when he whiffed on a tackle or pass breakup on Stefon Diggs’ winning catch in the playoffs.

We’ve all had to shake off everyday mistakes, and I don’t know about you, but I have had my issues from time to time with doing that and moving forward. To have to come back from a moment like Williams had cannot be easy whatsoever, with the nagging thought that no matter how much you do, that play will be associated with your name. Shaking free can be done, though, and the positive for Williams is that he should have a long time to make good on the opportunities still to come, ones that little by little can make that bad memory fade not only from his mind, but also the fans’.


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