The Saints All Pro punt returner can be a major weapon
By: Will Baptist
Sean Payton seems to love his new, shiny toys that he can use in a variety of ways on offense. Taysom Hill plays all over the field, Alvin Kamara is used in a plethora of different ways, and it looks like Payton has found another diamond in the rough. His name is Deonte Harris, and he fits that mold like no other.
Harris is primed for more action this upcoming season after a disappointing 2020 campaign, where he battled injuries throughout the year. Harris is electric in the open field and it behooves Payton to get him on the field more on offense. His rookie season in 2019 was special to say the least, as an undrafted free agent, he led the NFL in punt return yards, and made it to the Pro Bowl as a returner.
Harris is only 5’6 and 170 pounds, and his quickness is unparalleled, but he is uniquely strong and hard to tackle for his size. Payton and Harris are a match made in heaven, and there is nothing more logical than the Saints getting another weapon that they can use on offense. Getting Harris out in open space on screen passes has to be a wrinkle in the Saints offense this season. He needs to get the ball more, because if and when he does, he will be explosive.
Considering how great of a returner Harris is, he will always garner attention from opposing defenses. He can take one to the house in the blink of an eye, while he continues to develop as a route runner and wide receiver, he can easily be used on streaks and screens.
Luckily for Harris, he has arguably the best route runner in the NFL as a teammate, in Michael Thomas. The coaching staff and wide receiver room will undoubtedly improve his route running every single year.
Even though he was limited in 2020, his improvement was evident, and it was clear Payton wanted him more involved in the offense. He played in 14 games in 2019, and only had 10 total touches. That number increased dramatically in 2020, with 26 total touches in only nine games. That number could easily double in 2021, since the Saints are fairly thin at wide receiver outside of Thomas.
Imagining Hill at quarterback, with Kamara and Harris in the backfield will make opposing defensive coordinators’ heads explode. It will be extremely difficult to game plan against, and there is no blueprint for how to defend all of those weapons at once.
Thomas had a rough year in 2020, and with Drew Brees finally retiring from the NFL, there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding what the Saints will look like this season. They have yet to name their starting quarterback, but one thing is for certain, and that is whoever is under center will need to get Harris the ball in open field. He will be the quarterback’s best friend, and can take a 5-yard slant and turn it up field for a 60-yard touchdown.