The Willie Snead Dilemma for the New Orleans Saints

Willie Snead

With the departure of Brandin Cooks at the end of the 2016 season, fan-favorite Willie Snead seemed poised for a breakout season. The third-down specialist flirted with the 1,000-yard mark and with the New Orleans Saints leading receiver now gone, more of the workload was sure to fall on Snead’s shoulders, right? In maybe the most puzzling storyline of the 2017 season, the Saints look to the crystal ball to try and find answers to which Snead to expect in 2018.

The Willie Snead Dilemma for the New Orleans Saints

September 11, 2016: Opening day for the 2016 Saints saw the Oakland Raiders win a tough 35-34 contest in the Superdome. Despite the loss, there were some performances that stood out on the Saints side of the ball, specifically that of Snead. He finished the contest with nine catches (on nine targets) for 172 yards and a touchdown. This game would serve as a preview to a second straight eye-opening season for the Ball State standout.

Who could have imagined that game would produce more catches, yards, and touchdowns for Snead than the entire 2017 season? Our Snead? The same guy that actually threw a touchdown in the Greg Williams payback game against the Rams?

The short answer is that no one could have seen this coming.

Snead’s 2017 Season

Willie Snead and his 2017 season was a nightmare by any NFL player’s standards. With high expectations, Snead began the season suspended after failing a breathalyzer test following driving into a parked car. The four-game suspension was reduced to three after an appeal.

Willie Snead’s much-anticipated return would again be delayed, this time by injury. A hamstring injury forced Snead to continue to helplessly watch his teammates do battle week-to-week. Factor in the bye week and half a season had gone by with virtually no contribution from the Saints star. He never really worked his way into the game plan for the Saints in 2017, contributing just eight catches for 92 yards on the year.

The 2017 Saints Offensive Ideology

The combination of his suspension and injury time away from the game certainly didn’t help Snead’s stats, but may have also had a hand in changing the shift in offensive ideology for the 2017 Saints. While it was hard for any NFL savvy fan to imagine a balanced offense in New Orleans, that’s where they ended up. The Saints passed on 56.37% of their offensive plays, down from 63.44% a year prior. Part of the reason is obviously the addition of rookie phenom Alvin Kamara and the play of veteran Mark Ingram. Snead’s absence may have forced the hand of head coach Sean Payton to lean on the run game a bit more than he typically would. Once it was a success, it became a large part of the Saints offensive identity.

Snead in 2018

As discussed, it is impossible to know what the future will bring in the NFL. The Saints need a reliable third-down target back in this offense. While there are plenty of options for that roster position out there, they are all a gamble. Whether it’s signing a free agent veteran and hoping he fits your system or drafting a rookie and praying he can adjust to the speed of the NFL, it’s all a crapshoot.

The advantages of sticking with Snead are threefold. First, he has proven that he can succeed at this level and in this system. Second, he is a relatively inexpensive option, especially at the wide receiver position. Lastly, he is trusted by Drew Brees, still. Despite the weekly frustration of Saints fans by the lack of production from Snead, it’s important to remember that he didn’t forget how to play the game.

Snead’s Optimism Toward His Future

Snead is fairly active on social media and has not shied away from owning his 2017 results. Adversely, he seems quite optimistic that he will regain his pre-2017 form. Some of his posts on Twitter (@Willie_Snead4G) include:

It appears that Snead is ready to hold up his end of the deal. The 2018 off-season and pre-season will go a long way in determining if the Saints will get the Snead back on the field that Who Dat Nation has grown to love.

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  1. John, I commend your support of Willie Snead. I believe the Saints will see a new dedication in the off season. I would love to hear that Willie has moved to be near Drew Brees this off-season to work out together, would be good for Fleener as well. At least they could work out at the same facility. Snead has grown as an individual, let’s put some faith in him, other teams would not expect it.


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