Saints’ Michael Thomas is going to prove all his haters wrong in 2021


Watch him.

Watch him.
Picture: Getty Photos

In the event you ask a bunch of random folks on the road who the perfect receiver within the Nationwide Soccer League is true now, you’d in all probability get a wide selection of various solutions. Inexperienced Bay’s Davante Adams would in all probability get a pair votes. Arizona’s DeAndre Hopkins would as properly. Tyreek Hill, Stefon Diggs, Justin Jefferson, Mike Evans — I wouldn’t be stunned to listen to any of these receivers prime a fan’s record. The parity of opinions on the matter is far bigger than it was only one 12 months in the past. Previous to the 2020 season, there was just one actual reply to that query: the New Orleans Saints’ Michael Thomas.

Thomas had simply damaged the all-time receptions document when he caught 149 passes for 1725 yards and 9 touchdowns in 2019. #Cantguardmike was trending on Twitter anytime Michael Thomas did something on a soccer subject, and after the season concluded, he was named the AP Offensive Participant of the 12 months. Take into accout, this was the identical 12 months that San Francisco’s George Kittle grew to become the folks’s tight finish, and broke the tight finish receiving yards document. This was the identical 12 months that Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey grew to become simply the third working again in NFL historical past to document 1,000 speeding yards and 1,000 receiving yards in the identical season. And let’s not overlook about Lamar Jackson breaking the quarterback season speeding document all whereas main the NFL in landing passes. But regardless of these different historic performances, it was just about a on condition that Thomas was going to stroll away with the {hardware}. He was thus far above and past his competitors that anybody else receiving the award was nearly unfathomable.

Even nonetheless, there have been haters lurking about within the Twitter-sphere.

The narrative surrounding Michael Thomas was not about whether or not or not he was the perfect receiver within the recreation. It was now whether or not or not Michael Thomas might run any route successfully apart from slants.

I’m not right here to advertise Michael Thomas slander. I do know he’s a implausible receiver. There have been quite a few research into his route-running tendencies that present he’s rather more than a “slants-only” man. That being mentioned, there are nonetheless hundreds of NFL followers who imagine Michael Thomas is nothing greater than a one-trick pony — a “slant boy” if you’ll.

We all know Thomas doesn’t take too varietyly to that nickname. The star receiver obtained benched after entering into an altercation along with his teammate, security Malcolm Jenkins, after Jenkins known as Thomas a “slant boy” in observe. He was endlessly ridiculed with that nickname after recording zero catches towards the Tampa Bay Buccaneers within the playoffs final season. However can you actually blame folks for this evaluation? In any case, somebody who actually believed Thomas was a fraud in 2019 could be searching for any indicators of regression the next season, and so they obtained loads of it. Thomas recorded the lowest marks of his profession in each receptions per recreation and catch price in 2020. To not point out, Thomas additionally missed a number of video games attributable to damage and the aforementioned bodily altercation with Malcolm Jenkins. Thomas had a chance to close everybody up if he might string collectively one other unbelievable season in 2020. As a substitute, he put up the worst season of his profession.

Now, simply 99 days till the beginning of the subsequent NFL season, Michael Thomas is with out the Corridor of Fame quarterback he’s had his whole profession, he’s nonetheless being known as “slant boy” throughout social media, and he’s going to show that it was 2020, not 2019, that was the fluke.

When Thomas broke the receptions document in 2019, over one-third of the passes he caught that season had been out of the palms of Teddy Bridgewater. Within the 5 video games Thomas performed with out Brees in 2019, Thomas averaged nearly 8.5 receptions and 110 yards per recreation. Each of these marks are higher than what Thomas averaged over the course of that whole season. Whereas Jameis Winston positively leaves quite a bit to be desired within the accuracy division, he was persistently close to the highest of the league in meant air yards per cross try whereas in Tampa (he truly completed second within the league in each 2018 and 2019). That type of play wouldn’t swimsuit somebody who completely runs slants very properly. Now, it’s probably that Winston’s time underneath Drew Brees studying Sean Payton’s system has altered Winston’s play type to be extra conservative, nevertheless it’s nonetheless not possible that Winston throws the ball downfield much less usually than Brees did. Theoretically, Winston’s presence underneath middle ought to give Thomas extra alternative to indicate what he’s able to working deeper routes.

Like I mentioned earlier than, I imagine Michael Thomas is without doubt one of the most dominant receivers within the league when wholesome. He’s not a one-route man. In truth, after the 2019 season, when Subsequent Gen Stats checked out their superior receiving metrics for every of the eight widespread route timber (cross, go, put up, out, nook, out, slant, and hitch), they decided that Michael Thomas was the highest route-runner in FOUR of the eight classes: cross, out, hitch, and…sure, slant. And even when Michael Thomas was only a ‘slants-only’ receiver, what could be mistaken with that? You wouldn’t name a knuckleballer a fraud if he threw his knuckleball 90 p.c of the time. Nobody ever known as Mariano Rivera a fraud for throwing cutters on each pitch. If a batter can’t hit that pitch, they should regulate. Likewise, if a defensive again or defensive coordinator can’t cease Michael Thomas from racking up 100 yards per recreation on slant routes, they should get good.

With out Jared Cook dinner, Drew Brees, and Emmanuel Sanders in 2021, the New Orleans Saints offense goes to should rely closely on Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara to hold the load. I count on Winston and Taysom Hill to look Thomas’s method persistently. Many individuals could also be overlooking Thomas — pondering it’s unimaginable for him to repeat what he did in 2019. I agree with them. It’s nearly unimaginable for Thomas to repeat what he did that 12 months, however that doesn’t imply he can’t be probably the greatest receivers within the recreation. If Thomas actually desires to do away with that “slant boy” label, he’s going to should do much more in 2021 than he did in 2020, and judging by how a lot he hates that identify, I’m keen to guess he’ll present out.


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