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UNWELCOME RETURN? Texans (and Former Saints) WR Kenny Stills Returns to NOLA Looking For a “W”

When the Saints host the visiting Houston Texans next Monday Night in their opening game of the 2019 NFL Season, there will be a familiar face there to greet them; although it’s a face that many Who Dat fans associate with a former player for the Black and Gold from a few years ago who essentially wasted an opportunity to potentially become an NFL “superstar” had he remained in NOLA.

That player of course is none other than former Saints wide receiver and former 5th Round draft pick Kenny Stills; who the team originally drafted with the 144th overall pick of the 2013 NFL Draft out of the University of Oklahoma.

The 27-year old Stills will be in uniform for the visiting Texans next Monday Night and is expected to see his first game action since being traded to Houston last weekend; when their team made a well-documented (and somewhat unpopular) trade with the Miami Dolphins, to bring the now-7th year veteran receiver along with offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil, to both start in the Texans’ revamped offensive attack.

Stills ⁠— who has played at least 15 games per year in each of his six NFL seasons ⁠— will give the Texans some much-needed depth at the wide receiver position. The Eden Prairie, Minnesota native has a 16-yard career per catch average and has scored an impressive total of 21 receiving touchdowns in his past three seasons with the Dolphins.

(AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)

He’s expected to become the Texans’ brand-new #3 WR and one of the new starting pass-catchers in the Texans starting offensive line-up, behind All-Pro WR Deandre Hopkins and #2 WR Will Fuller. Stills could very well possibly achieve some notable success now that he’s in Houston; given the fact that the very fast 6-foot-1, 205 pounder possesses the innate capability to “stretch the field” vertically as a deep-ball receiver and would seem to make for a good fit well alongside Hopkins while lining up all over the Texans offensive formation.

The move could actually turn out to be a good one down the line for Houston, considering that neither Fuller and fellow WR Keke Coutee were unable to stay healthy for the past several seasons. 

Stills spent his first two seasons with the Black and Gold in NOLA before he was eventually traded by head coach Sean Payton and General Manager Mickey Loomis to Miami prior to the beginning of the 2015 NFL Season. In his first 6 NFL seasons, Stills has tallied 2,566 receiving yards and has scored a grand total of 24 touchdowns. 

But Who Dat fans might recall that Stills was traded to Miami in exchange for disappointing veteran linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (who was always hurt during his time spent with the Saints) and a 3rd-round draft pick because it had been long-rumored that a young Stills at that time was more concerned with his social life ⁠— and constantly showed up late for Practice and even showed up “hung over” after partaking in some all-night partying, allegedly in the famous New Orleans French Quarter.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

Although never confirmed, the rumors served as a narrative to portray Stills as an immature and undisciplined young adult who wasn’t taking his career in the NFL serious enough.

In his 2 seasons with the Saints, Stills was targeted a total of 133 times and caught a total of 95 receptions for 1,572 yards and 8 touchdowns, with a 16.5 yards per catch average. But many observers back at that time, felt he wasted a golden opportunity to blossom into an NFL “superstar” while catching passes from Saints QB Drew Brees.

But that was nearly 5 years ago, and since that time he has quite obviously matured both as a man and as a football player; and he filled a vitally important role for the Dolphins both as their #1 receiver and a captain last season. Although he served mostly as Miami’s primary “deep ball threat” during his 4 seasons in South Florida, he has also shown great success while making plays from the slot position.

Photo courtesy of The Orlando Sum-Sentinel

To that effect, Texans head coach Bill O’Brien told reporters this past Monday that he was excited about what Stills can provide for the Houston passing attack.

“He can run all the routes on the outside,” O’Brien said Monday, via the team’s official website. “I think he can play on the inside. I think he’s a versatile wide receiver that can do a lot of different things. He’s got good hands, is a really good route runner, very smooth route runner, so he has a combination of speed and route-running ability that, I think you guys know in being around me for a while, that I really like having on the team.”

The biggest advantage that Stills gives Houston however is his speed to beat defenders deep (Stills ran a 4.3 40-yard dash in college for the Sooners), which is something not lost on his new teammate and the All-Pro (and former college All-American) Hopkins.”I don’t know, man,” Hopkins said. “Will’s pretty fast, but Kenny is, too”, Hopkins laughed when asked about his new teammate on this past Monday.

Photo courtesy of The Tulsa World

“I’m familiar with Stills because I’ve been knowing him since high school when we played in an all-star game together,” said Hopkins, who played for the University of Clemson but was drafted the year (2014) after Stills was drafted by the Saints a year earlier.

Now he’ll finally make his long-anticipated regular season return to NOLA as a member of the Texans, and looking to get the “W” in his first-ever game with Houston.

But nevertheless, with the Black and Gold hoping to avoid another poor start to the regular season, he likely will come into the Mercedes-Benz Superdome next Monday Night as an UNWELCOME guest — even if he does have a familiar face….

 

Saints News Network featured columnist and Big Easy Magazine contributing writer Barry Hirstius is a 52-year old semi-retired journalist, former New Orleans-area sports editor, and writer previously with several sites that exclusively cover the New Orleans Saints football team. Additionally, he is a recurring guest on a variety of local Sports Talk Radio programs. Barry is also a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the team while attending games as a young boy at the old Tulane Stadium in the early 1970’s, originally following and now covering the team for a span of over 45 plus years. And perhaps most importantly of all: he is the Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity.....

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