A week from tomorrow night, the New Orleans Saints will be at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, Florida to face the Jaguars, in what will be their first game of the 2018 NFL Pre-Season. But thanks in part to some rather deft off-day maneuvering by the organization and head coach Sean Payton yesterday evening, next Thursday Night's contest and the 3 other Pre-Season games that follow, just got a whole lot more interesting.
And that would be because the red-hot competition to become what likely will be the 5th and final wide receiver on the Saints on the Final 53-man Roster early next month, just got even HOTTER.
As first reported by New Orleans Advocate beat writer Nick Underhill, last night the Saints announced that they had signed not one but two more WR's to the current 90-man Pre-Season roster, with the addition of NFL veteran WR's Michael Floyd and Brandon Tate.
(A few hours later, the team also announced it had signed former Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions offensive guard Don Barclay as well).
Naturally, the question must be asked: why is the Saints organization bringing in more WR's to an already-crowded WR competition?
Underhill reports that it's likely for two reasons: the first reason is likely because the Saints are seeking to upgrade the kick returner position if the many options they are currently using do not pan out (both Floyd and Tate are capable of returning punts and kickoffs).
And the other reason might be that the team simply just needed some additional depth at the WR position.
Underhill notes that 4th year veteran Brandon Coleman has also been out of action with an undisclosed injury on the PUP list, 2nd year undrafted free agent Travin Dural broke his arm on Sunday and is out for the season on injured reserve, and undrafted rookie Eldridge Massington is dealing with a sore leg.
However, what also can't be overlooked: the possibility that Payton (as he's been known to do) additionally is seeking to motivate some of his particular players (like Coleman) into giving an all-out effort, especially if they feel threatened that the additional competition could take away their job and their financial well-being.
Just yesterday, Saints News Network featured columnist Barry Hirstius speculated that Coleman appeared to be anxious to return to the field as he worked out off to the side by himself while the team practiced nearby.
He then noted that while no clear reason has been given as to why Coleman was placed on the PUP list, that if the Saints decide to take an "out of sight, out of mind" approach, Coleman is in serious jeopardy of not making the Final 53-man Roster with players like TommyLee Lewis, Keith Kirkwood and Austin Carr making very strong cases for themselves to be the team's #5 WR.
And now: you can add Floyd and Tate's names into the mix.
Floyd spent last season with the Vikings in Minnesota, where the 28-year old caught 10 passes for 78 yards. But most Saints fans will recall that he famously broke into the League with the Arizona Cardinals, for whom he posted his best season in 2013 by catching 65 passes for 1,041 yards with 5 TD's.
Floyd was drafted by the Cardinals with the 13th overall pick in Round 1 of the 2012 NFL Draft, after an All-American career at the University of Notre Dame.
Meanwhile, Tate — who will be playing in his 10th NFL season (if he makes the Final Roster) after originally being drafted by the New England Patriots in the 2009 NFL Draft out of the University of North Carolina —most recently played for the Bills in Buffalo, where he returned 20 punts for 193 yards and 28 kicks for 548 yards.
But Tate has developed a reputation over the years as a premier kick returner, totaling over 7,000 return yards in his time with the Patriots, Bengals and Bills; with his best seasons in that department coming in 2010 and 2011.
But as a WR, he only managed to catch 6 passes for 81 yards; and Underhill noted last night that Tate likely will be tried out in a similar role (solely as a kick returner) in New Orleans.
In all likelihood, what it means going forward is that the 4 Pre-Season games that take place this month beginning with next Thursday Night's game in Jacksonville, just got a whole lot more interesting — specifically for Coleman and 3rd year WR TommyLee Lewis.
Coleman is entering his 4th season with the Saints; and while he hasn't showcased the full ability of his talent, he has the potential to be a high-powered player.
Due to his similarities in size, power, and playing ability to that of former Saints WR Marques Colston, it’s easy to see why the Saints may not wanna give up on Coleman just yet.
When he is healthy, Coleman plays like a beast and towers over defenders at 6'6. However, he didn't have the best season last year. In fact, there were many moments when Coleman looked sloppy, dropped passes in critical moments, and couldn't bring in the catches fans normal see him pull off.
He has much to improve on if he wants to show the coaching staff that he can indeed become a legitimate option in the offense the way that head coach Sean Payton wants him to be. Unfortunately, Coleman now will have to work even that much harder, when he returns to regain his spot.
One can't help but notice the physical similarities between Floyd and Coleman, meaning that the move could have even been made to compensate for a potential release of Coleman; if the organization decides to go in another direction and move on from him.
As for Coleman's teammate and fellow WR competitor TommyLee Lewis, things are a bit more complicated.
While Lewis isn't the towering size Coleman is (at a mighty 5-foot-7), Lewis truly began to find his place in the offense last year. Lewis uses his speed and size to his advantage as a WR; but also has on more than one occasion, been tried as the team's designated return man on kick and punt returns.
But it is gonna take more than some fancy foot work and a burst of speed to earn a spot on the Final Roster this season, and it will be more than interesting to watch, how the WR and kick returner positions "shake out" in the weeks ahead.
Either way: with the Saints likely only keeping a total of 5 WR positions available (the Saints Top 4 WR's appear to be set with Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn, Jr., Cam Meredith, and rookie Tre'Quan Smith), both Coleman and Lewis now have even more challenges to overcome.