METAIRIE, La. — Kenny Stills took one step to the outside shoulder of Atlanta cornerback Robert McClain before using a quick move inside to blow past the Falcons’ rookie defensive back.
And Drew Brees saw it right away, locking in on New Orleans’ newest downfield threat, hitting him nearly in stride 24-yards down the field.
Stills did the rest, shifting his momentum to his right and racing to the far sideline before eventually getting caught at Atlanta’s 9-yard line after a 67-yard gain.
“I’ve kind of been preparing, knowing that if you get out there and get open, Drew is going to find you and you’re going to be able to have the opportunity to make plays,” Stills said. “I was open so Drew hit me. It’s just one of those things in this offense.”
Sean Payton’s offense is predicated on deep chances as much as it is on mismatches. By extending the field, the deep threat can open up those routes underneath. In Stills, the Saints found a player with speed to burn.
But even after a big start to his professional career, he's dead set on keeping a chip on his shoulder any way he can. The biggest one might be that 16 receivers were taken ahead of him in April’s NFL draft, not that he’ll admit that.
“Regardless of where I was drafted, if I was the first receiver or the second receiver or – where was I, 15th or 16th – I’d still have a chip on my shoulder,” Stills said. “I find something that’s negatively written or something that somehow that says the wrong thing. I read it and I kind of take it to memory. I’m always going to find something or somehow to have a chip on my shoulder.”
New Orleans looks at it a different way. They’re happy he was available at pick No. 144.
“We felt like he had speed and solid hands, so we liked having him,” Payton said. “(Him) being there when we were able to select him was a good thing for us.”
Against Atlanta, only one thing seemed to hold back the Brees-Stills combo. On four of the five plays Stills was targeted, it appeared Brees was short on his passes to the receiver, including in the second quarter when the youngster had several steps on the defensive back covering him.
But lest you think Brees’ arm strength is lacking, Stills said it’s something different.
“In practice, regardless of how warm I think I am or how fast I think I’m running, you never have that same adrenaline or have that same feeling,” Stills said. “It’s just one of those things. Drew knows now maybe to let it go a little earlier or whatever. It’s just one of those things. We’re going to get on the same page at some point in time and when we do, it’s going to be one of those things that’s hard to stop.”