Smith can make that leap in New Orleans
By: Adam Martin
The New Orleans Saints are in a transition period after the loss of multiple players this offseason. There is uncertainty over who will play QB and they are no longer the obvious winner in their own division. With that in mind they need guys to step up and Tre’Quan Smith could be that guy. He has shown glimpses over the last three years in New Orleans but now he has the chance to really breakout. Here we look at why Tre’Quan Smith could be a household name in 2021.
Given that TreQuan Smith has played in the NFL for three years it does seem weird to be expecting a breakout. However, there are plenty of reasons why this could happen. Smith has shown in the last few years that he is capable of making an impact. There has been plenty of change in New Orleans but Sean Payton is still the head coach. If you have a head coach that believes in you then that makes a huge difference to a player.
Why the stats can lie.
In his three years in the NFL Smith has never been amazing but has been a solid option for his QB. In 2018 he played in 15 games making 427 yards and five touchdowns with a 63.3% pass completion rate. It was hoped he would push on in 2019 but he only played 11 games due to injuries. He only managed to gain 234 yards and five touchdowns that year but had a career-high 72% pass completion rate. He then bounced back to 448 yards and four touchdowns in 2020 over 14 games played.
The stats can lie and make it look like he is not as good as he actually is but there are some averages that need to be taken into account. His pass completion rate works out to around 68% over his three years. This is a decent rate and shows that when he gets the ball he is likely to hold it. On top of that he has also shown that he is a touchdown target. Normally he will hit five touchdowns a season and with a potential increase in targets likely to come, that should go up.
Does he have the opportunity?
Now is the time that Smith has the opportunity to really kick on. When you look at the depth chart Michael Thomas is the clear number one wide receiver on the team. However, there is no one else thanks to the end of Emmanuel Sanders contract. Smith is the next man up with only the likes of Marquez Callaway and Deonte Harris having seen any significant snaps. On top of that, they did draft a seventh-round wide receiver but there is nothing to stop Smith from excelling.
With Emmanuel Sanders now gone it has released up 82 targets and Smith has to be considered a prime candidate for them. He won’t get them all because there are other candidates but if he can get 35 of them then you could see a huge increase. Chris Godwin had 84 targets last year and amassed 840 yards and seven touchdowns finishing at the number 30 wide receiver. Smith had 50 targets last year so could easily pick up the 34 targets and amass similar figures. If Smith was to hit these figures then he would be a player on more people’s lips by the end of 2021.
What about the loss of Brees?
The loss of Drew Brees will undoubtedly have a knock-on affect to the success of the Saints this year. However, he had been struggling over the last few years with injuries and arm strength. Over the last three years, there had been a noticeable drop-off when it came to pass attempts. The reason you have to look at the last three years is that is the time the Tre’Quan Smith has been with the Saints. In 2018 Brees had 489 pass attempts and that only got lower over the next two years after.
Currently, it feels like there is a genuine battle for the starting QB gig in New Orleans. It could be Taysom Hill or it could be Jameis Winston. This decision by head coach Sean Payton will have the biggest impact on Tre’Quan Smith and if he can vastly improve. If Payton decides to go with Taysom Hill then it will be tough for Smith to reach the numbers previously mentioned. If he starts Jameis Winston and sticks with him then the numbers will be reached.
Jameis Winston loves to throw the ball and wont shy away from any accuracy problems. The last time he started in 2019 with Tampa Bay he throw 30 touchdowns and 30 interceptions. Not only did he show the strength of character to keep going he also had 626 pass attempts. That is a crazy amount of pass attempts and he probably wouldn’t reach them numbers again. However, he showed in his first two seasons in the NFL that he will throw much more than many QB’s.
He threw over 500 pass attempts in his rookie year and then his second year. Had he played a full season in his next two seasons he probably would of done the same again. With Brees only throwing 390 attempts last year the certain increase of pass attempts from Winston would mean that Smith would receive much more work.
Given the lack of depth at wide receiver for the Saints this year you have to think that Smith can leap forward. He has the hands to make the vast majority of his catches count and has always been a touchdown threat. However, a lot of this will depend on who is starting QB will be. If its Taysom Hill he will improve but not significantly. If its Jameis Winston then the sky is the limit. The ability is there, the targets are there and hopefully for Smith, Winston will be there.