METAIRIE, La. – When Curtis Johnson left the New Orleans Saints to take the head coach position at Tulane, he was leaving a program’s receiving corps in good shape.
Lance Moore, Marques Colston and Devery Henderson all returned as veteran players used to working hard and running great routes under Johnson’s tutelage.
But in the Saints’ season opener, breakdowns occurred with the receivers, who uncharacteristically weren’t sharp in their routes or their route-running.
For the Saints to improve to 1-1 with a win against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, the receivers group must play better, ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer said.
“Earlier on the game there were four or five balls that were kind of wide to the outside, and those were routes that the receivers need to keep running on. They're pulling up instead of running out of them,” Dilfer said. “I thought the receivers played very poorly early on in that game, so they've got to play better because they're going to throw the ball.”
Lest you think a national analyst has it in for the Saints, he wasn’t the only one thinking the same thing.
Saints interim head coach Aaron Kromer agreed.
“Washington did a good job of really riding our receivers all the way down the field and we have to do a better job of releasing,” Kromer said.
New Orleans receivers dropped four passes against the Washington Redskins. A season ago, in 16 regular season games, Saints receivers combined to drop only 11 passes. It didn’t help that Brees was out for the much of the offseason while negotiating a long-term contract, though the quarterback said that had zero effect on being in sync with the receivers.
More so, those involved said, were injury issues. Leading receiver Marques Colston spent much of the week prior to the Redskins game limited in practice and was listed as questionable before Sunday with a left foot issue. Though he played, he caught only four of the 11 passes thrown towards him.
Quarterback Drew Brees said the key this week will be practicing like they used to at the position.
“If you practice it the right way you feel good about it going into Sunday,” he said. “We have a standard for the way we do things around here and we understand there’s going to be maybe off days or times where you miss one but it’s about how you respond.”