Some may think that quarterback Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints has more than enough weapons surrounding him with a corps of wide receivers that could start for just abiout any team in the league. There are still more pieces to the puzzle though and the leader of the black and gold needs some big tight ends to take over the middle of the field, but he’s got some younger hands for the upcoming season.
After checking out the wide receivers, it’s time to look at the tight ends for the Saints as things are going to look a bit different on the ends in 2011. The ever-popular Jeremy Shockey was released and ended up signing with divisional rival Carolina. David Thomas is still around, but he’s aging which means that a younger crowd is making their way in.
Brees likes to make the tight end a big part of the offense as if opens the downfield game for his receivers and even opens holes for the running back. But he heeds some trustworthy players to help him do that so it’s time to analyze the crop of Saints tight ends.
~ David Thomas: While it may seem strange to say Thomas is aging even though he’s only been in the league for six years but it is hard to stay on top when new blood is in the mix. Thomas is a great veteran with incredible leadership skills and one hell of a blocker. He was offered a free agent tender by the Saints and chances are they will make sure to keep him for some veteran teaching and the fact that he still has a lot of talent on the field. Look for him to be the number two tight end when the season starts.
~ Jimmy Graham: The man who is one of the reasons that Jeremy Shockey was let go. The rookie proved himself last season by catching almost as many touchdowns in 10 games (5) than Shockey did in three seasons with the Saints (6). Coming out of college, Coach Sean Payton took a chance on the player that had only one year of football under his belt, but the gamble paid off. Graham is going to be a superstar in this league and his rookie season was only the beginning.
The pure talent that Graham has combined with his size and speed is exactly what has made other tight ends like Tony Gonzalez, Jason Witten, Shannon Sharpe, and the late John Mackey so great. Graham is going to be one to watch, but fans may not have a choice honestly as the kid is forcing himself in as a huge cog in this offensive machine of the Saints.
~ Tory Humphrey: Believe it or not, he is on the Saints roster and now with Shockey gone, fans may be seeing him a good bit more. Humphrey has the best chance of turning into the team’s third tight end. He’s a decent-sized end with good hands and he’s not afraid to lower his head for that extra yard. Mostly used in practice during his time in New Orleans so far, look for more of an impact this season.
~ Tyler Lorenzen: He is officially on the team, but has never appeared in a game and has no recorded stats. The way Humphrey has looked in recent training camps, Lorenzen would have to do a lot to bypass him. Things may be made even harder if the Saints bring in a veteran tight end free agent.
The New Orleans Saints may truly try to add another veteran tight end in the chaotic free agent period that is sure to come once the lockout ends, and it’ll be close competition for the third spot. Graham and Thomas appear to be locked in to the top spots as expected.
Brees seemed to really focus on Graham near the end of last season and if he has found himself a new favorite target then the young tight end could hear his name called a lot in 2011. He needs to be ready and ya know what…he probably already is.
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