Saints’ Struggles Could Continue Without a Fully Fit Michael Thomas

Saints’ Struggles Could Continue Without a Fully Fit Michael Thomas

The New Orleans Saints crashed to an insipid 34-24 defeat in Las Vegas in Week 2, with Sean Payton’s side failing to fire against the Raiders. Drew Brees struggled to move the ball down the field, and despite a hugely promising performance from third-year pro Tre’Quan Smith, there were very positives to take from an underwhelming evening at the Allegiant Stadium. The absence of Michael Thomas left a sizeable void in the Saints’ offense with the 27-year old missing his first NFL game in four years. Without the wide receiver, they struggled to secure off-target passes and looked clumsy throughout.

Thomas recorded an NFL record 149 receptions last season, and it appears as though his absence may have been underestimated by the majority of analysts and fans. Brees was uncharacteristically ineffective throughout the contest and was forced to check down to his running backs on numerous occasions. Although he still completed 61% of his pass attempts, without Thomas, he looked bereft of ideas at times. With Smith still learning his craft, responsibility fell to the experienced Emmanuel Sanders, who failed to step up and caught just one of three targets for 18 yards. 

Sanders is still acclimatizing to the Saints offense and should be given time to adapt to his new surroundings, and whilst Alvin Kamara still offers plenty of explosive power, the balance just wasn’t quite right on Monday night. Thomas has reportedly seen a specialist regarding his troublesome ankle injury, and although fans will be desperately hoping to see him back in a Saints jersey as soon as possible, he may be on the sidelines for ‘several weeks’. With the sprain believed to be worse than originally thought, the Saints’ coaching staff must find a way to adapt without the versatile and consistent receiver. 

NBC viewers will be able to see how the Black and Gold fare against the Packers in Sunday night football Week 3 and although it’s a relatively short turnaround for Payton’s men, they will go into this matchup as clear favorites. Without Thomas in the line-up, the Saints’ offense must increase their productivity in this weekend’s televised tie at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Although they’ve won two of the last three head-to-heads with the Green and Gold, the Packers have made a terrific start to the 2020 season and will be hoping to build upon their 42-21 success over the Lions. 

Although Thomas’ absence was key to their Week 2 loss, the underwhelming form of 41-year old Drew Brees is also a concern. His 2019 performances left many critics questioning his staying power, and having missed a number of short throws in Las Vegas, the conversation looks likely to continue until the veteran QB starts to see an upturn in his numbers. 

Tre’Quan Smith proved to be a rare bright spot on a miserable Monday night for the Saints, and he is expected to improve upon his 86-yard evening in the coming weeks. With Payton unlikely to make any groundbreaking alterations to the roster this week, Smith’s fellow receivers must step-up and help the Saints to recapture their 2019 form which saw them end the campaign with a 13-3 record.

Michael Thomas is unlikely to return to the field until at least week 6, and the Black and Gold must find a way to adapt to life without their talismanic wide-man. If they can’t get the best out of Emmanuel Sanders and Jared Cook, they could see their post-season ambitions take a significant hit. 

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