Will Emmanuel Sanders' receiving numbers spike with Brees this season?
"Right when I signed... We told each other we would see each other soon, but I'm ready to get to work, get the chemistry down and learn the offense." Emmanuel Sanders on Conversation With Drew Brees
The New Orleans Saints inked speedy WR Emmanuel Sanders to a 2-year, $16M deal in March. The signing solidifies Sanders in their #2 WR role behind the 2019 Offensive Player of the Year, Michael Thomas. Sanders is entering his 11th year in the league after experiencing loads of success over the past decade with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Denver Broncos, and San Francisco 49ers.
Since 2014 WR Emmanuel Sanders has had only one season where he did not post at least 850 yards receiving. Sanders missed four games that season, 2017, as the Broncos adjusted to a new Head Coach and year two of life without Peyton Manning. Sanders wasted no time getting in touch with his new QB Drew Brees and worked out this week.
A few wide receivers have had an opportunity to work with three future Hall of Fame QBs in their NFL careers. Sanders has worked with Ben Roethlisberger (Steelers), and Peyton Manning (Broncos); now, with Drew Brees will possibly give him the best opportunity to showcase his skills in Sean Payton's prolific offense. Since Manning’s retirement in 2016, Sanders has seen a decline in his receiving stats. However, while with the 49ers, Sanders showed the NFL he could still provide the speed/route running to be a vertical and third-down threat for any offense.
A #2 receiver has been needed for the last half a decade in New Orleans. While Michael Thomas was setting his NFL record for receptions, the rest of the Saints' wide receiving corps, Ginn and Smith, produced poor numbers. The next closest Saints player in receptions last season was Alvin Kamara, who hauled 81 balls for a third consecutive year. Thomas also racked up 1,000 more yards than the closest Saints' full-time receiver, Jared Cook, at 705.
At the end of 2019, Jared Cook was healthy and emerged in the offensive gameplan for Coach Payton. This year, a healthy Alvin Kamara, combined with Thomas, Cook, and Sanders, should have the Saints offense running on all cylinders.
Therefore, what can we expect from Sanders? Some may call it crazy, but 1,000+ yards is not out of the question.
Just four years ago, in 2016, the Saints offense accomplished a rare feat. The team had a 5,000-yard passer (Drew Brees), a 1,000-yard rusher (Mark Ingram), and two 1,000 yard receivers (Brandin Cooks and Michael Thomas). 2016 was also the last time New Orleans had two 1,000 yard receivers in the same season. It's unlikely Brees will throw for 5,000 yards, it is in the realm of possibilities to see a surge in receiving numbers across the board because of Sanders.
Sanders’ ability to take the top off and quickly change direction bodes well for him and the Saints TEs and RBs. Having two elite route runners on the outside should open the middle of the field for TE Jared Cook, RB Alvin Kamara, and QB/TE/WR Taysom Hill. Those players' ability to find open pockets of space on the field will attract defenders' attention away from the outside receivers and create more one-on-one matchups for Sanders and Thomas.
The Saints expect Sanders will create an immediate impact. Why else would the team had invested $8M a year on a WR? The need for a true #2 was long overdue, and Mickey Loomis may have found a perfect fit for Brees and Payton. Sanders is a vertical threat who possesses the unique ability to star in a team’s offense without being the number one target. On paper, Sean Payton’s offense resembles a well-oiled machine headed into 2020. Having a 1,000 yard WR opposite All-Pro WR Michael Thomas should have him happy and eager to begin in 2020.
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