If you follow Michael Thomas (@Cantguardmike) on twitter, you are familiar with his “Shhhh” catchphrase. Whether he uses it as encouragement, or a subtle jab to his doubters, “shhh’ing” is something Thomas is also doing on the field with his stellar play.
Shhhh: New Orleans Saints Wide Receiver Michael Thomas Will Continue Silencing Critics
After being the sixth wide receiver drafted in the 2016 NFL Draft, Thomas went on to have the best season of any receiver in his rookie class. He led all rookies in receptions (92), receiving yards (1,137), and touchdowns (9) leaving people shocked that he was a second round pick. He was consistent throughout the season averaging 75.8 yards per game while never dipping below 40 yards in a single contest. He mirrored Marques Colston’s best seasons in New Orleans as just a rookie. The sky is the limit as Thomas looks to continue silencing his critics in his sophomore season with the New Orleans Saints.
Thomas torched the Atlanta Falcons this season combining for 227 yards and two scores in their two meetings. That is music to Saints fan’s ears in “The Big Easy.” Thomas and the Saints look to bounce back from a 7-9 season and retake the division crown from the rival Falcons.
Red Zone Statistics:
The Saints drafted Thomas hoping he could replicate Colston’s production in the red zone. This past season, that is where Thomas did most of his damage as he was one of the NFL’s top pass catchers inside the 20 yard line. His 68.4 percent reception rate ranked first among all wide receivers with at least 16 red zone targets. Thomas proved he can score when the field gets smaller as he also ranked third in touchdowns in the red zone.
It’s clear that quarterback Drew Brees has already grown to trust his young receiver to make plays. He is willing to throw it up to Thomas in traffic and trust that he will make a great play. This season, after a game against the San Francisco 49ers in which Brees threw a key touchdown pass to Thomas, Brees said, “That was one where it’s like, throw it up to the big man and let him make a play.”
When Brandin Cooks was traded to the New England Patriots, Thomas assumed the role as the Saints number one wide receiver. New acquisition, and fellow Ohio State Buckeye, Ted Ginn Jr. immediately expressed his respect for Thomas’s abilities:
“First off, that’s the guy there and I have the utmost respect for that guy. For me to be able to come in his kingdom and he welcomes me with open arms, that is the greatest thing that you can ever ask for.”
As Ginn said, Thomas will be the guy, but he should still produce against the league’s top cornerbacks. He wins a lot of one-on-one battles because his elite combination of size and speed. Thomas’s 6’3” frame and 32 1/8” arms, allows him to physical dominate smaller, quicker corners while his push off the line allows him to get open down the field against bigger, physical corners.
Saints general manager, Mickey Loomis, was quick to replace Cooks with Ginn. Ginn made a name for himself by spreading the field in Carolina with Cam Newton and will play the same role as a speedster this season in New Orleans. According to Ginn, Thomas played a role in his recruitment to New Orleans. He said, “I reached out to my fellow Buckeye, Mike, and we had a couple of conversations, just because throughout time I’ve known him a little bit more.”
The Saints have shown they can be consistently dominate on offense behind the arm of Brees. Thomas should only get better with another summer of NFL experience. He and Ginn never played together at Ohio State, but now we are afforded the opportunity to see what could have been had these Buckeye legends been born ten years closer – only this time it’s in black and gold instead of gray and scarlet.