Michael Thomas entered the 2020 season as arguably the best WR in football. The former second-round pick came off an NFL record 149 reception season, leading the league with 1,725 receiving yards. Pair that with his impressive 9 touchdown grabs, and it was easy to say “Can’t Guard Mike” had another monster year in mind, this time alongside WR Emmanuel Sanders and Tre’Quan Smith.
Unfortunately, Michael Thomas’ encore was short-lived. The reigning Offensive Player of the Year suffered a high ankle sprain in the final minutes in Week 1 of the Saints’ victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
RB Latavius Murray ran the ball left inside the red-zone in the final minutes of the game when he was tackled, rolling onto Thomas’s ankle, causing the wide-out to limp off the field and not return to action. Following the game, Thomas was diagnosed with a high-grade ankle sprain and would miss 2-4 weeks of action.
In Mike’s absence over the next few weeks, New Orleans relied on WRs Emmanuel Sanders, Tre’Quan Smith, Marquez Callaway, and Deonte Harris to make plays in the passing game. All four saw their roles increase and continued to build chemistry with QB Drew Brees leading to multiple victories.
Following a four-week window, Michael Thomas’ ankle was re-evaluated and there was an optimism he would be able to suit up on Monday Night Football in Week 5. However, the optimism was short-lived as Thomas got into a heated altercation with teammate Chauncey Gardner-Johnson during practice. As a result, Thomas was a healthy scratch in Week 5 and went on to miss more time with a hamstring injury.
New Orleans finally had their star WR back in the lineup and ready to contribute in Week 9 against Tampa Bay. But the question remained… “Is he fully healthy?”
Over the next 6 games, Michael Thomas returned to the field and to normal form posting 37 receptions for 421-yards including two 100-yard receiving games against Atlanta. However, the injury bug was not quite finished nagging Thomas.
With his ankle injury continuing to bother him, MT missed practice leading up to the Saints Week 15 matchup against the defending Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs. The Saints decided to place the star WR on Injured Reserve (IR) a day before the game, which would cost Thomas at least 3 weeks.
New Orleans played the rest of the regular season without their All-Pro WR, who had now missed over half the regular season because of injury and disciplinary reasons.
Thomas was activated off Injured Reserve and ready to go for the Saints Wild-Card matchup against the Bears. Along with hauling in 5 passes for 73-yards in the playoff contest, Thomas found the end zone for his first score of the 2020 season.
A week later, in the Divisional Round, Thomas and the Saints' offense as a whole struggled. The 2019 Offensive Player of the Year was held to zero catches as New Orleans fell 30-20 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, ending their season.
Shortly after the season concluded, reports confirmed Thomas would undergo surgery to repair the damage to his deltoid and torn ligaments in his foot/ankle.
The New Orleans offense never found their full stride in an injury-riddled 2020 season despite the team's overall success. The loss of Michael Thomas hurt, particularly in the early goings of the season, but there is a lot to be said of the Saints' winning ways without one of their best players.
Thomas' loss was evident, and without Drew Brees' #1 target, the whole team suffered, which is why Michael Thomas' injury falls at #7 on our countdown.
Saints News Intern Joe Mcguan contributed to the Article Series: Top 10 Defining Moments of Saints 2020 Season.
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