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Who Will Step up in Michael Thomas’ Absence

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New Orleans now enters the season with significant questions lingering on their offense. After news of Michael Thomas’ preseason surgery broke, concern immediately surged through the Saints fanbase. Thomas is one of the premier wideouts in the NFL, his ankle surgery in June could rule him out for up to four months. Sean Payton is not happy; meanwhile, Thomas is now on the PUP list. With the Saints experiencing a transition at quarterback, the surgery is the last thing they needed. The next-man-up mentality is something that all teams preach; the Saints must find a way forward without Thomas.

Marquez Callaway

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA – OCTOBER 12: Taysom Hill #7 of the New Orleans Saints celebrates his nine-yard touchdown against the Los Angeles Chargers with Marquez Callaway #12 during their NFL game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on October 12, 2020, in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Former undrafted free agent Marquez Callaway may become the man that shoulders the load. The Tennessee product displayed a solid transition into the pro ranks last year. With his big frame, decent hands, and athleticism, the tools are there for him to take the X receiver role. One element that Callaway must also demonstrate is a desire to block in the running game. Sean Payton is of the Bill Parcells mindset; he champions physicality. With weapons in the backfield, pounding the pill will still feature in the Saints offense. When targeting Callaway, the passer rating for the quarterback came in at a very good 99.5. With questions surrounding the identity of the starting signal-caller, Callaway needs to grab the opportunity and show that he is the go-to guy.

Adam Trautman

You know that it isn’t just wide receivers that can feature in a potent offense. The tight-end position is no longer a glorified offensive lineman; they are vital parts of any attack. After Jared Cook’s departure, the spotlight shines on Adam Trautman for 2021. Trautman displayed decent ability as a pass-catching tight end in 2020. Trautman had a good feel on those heavy seam routes in between the numbers. That is where Trautman will make his hay in the 2021 season. Jameis Winston can fire lasers in the middle of the field, while Taysom Hill may get forced to throw there schematically. Therefore Trautman should get more opportunities to shine in a catching role. The other reason why coaches love Trautman is his determination to punish defenders in the running game. That is Trautman’s primary attribute; if he continues to enjoy the grueling battles when blocking, Trautman will surprise plenty of people. A quality tight end can mask any deficiencies in the receiver room.

The Running Back Room

Even with Michael Thomas on the field, he isn’t the most potent weapon. That accolade belongs to Alvin Kamara. Kamara is the best do-it-all back in the NFL. It is not close. Yes, he won’t bludgeon opponents like Derrick Henry; however, Kamara excels as a runner and receiver. He is the X factor. Whatever offensive game plan Coach Payton installs, Kamara will be the featured player. With the returning Latavius Murray, newly-signed Devonta Freeman, and Ty Montgomery, the Saints runners boast a ton of variety. We could see plenty of formations with two-back sets with Kamara flexed out all over the field to find a mismatch. Add Trautman’s desire to block, New Orleans could make things happen out of heavy personnel. The running game could get even more explosive if Hill starts as the quarterback. The Saints could become a bit more RPO-heavy and use all the athleticism in their backfield to run over teams.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – JANUARY 14: Michael Thomas #13 of the New Orleans Saints reacts after a touchdown against the Minnesota Vikings during the second half of the NFC Divisional Playoff game at U.S. Bank Stadium on January 14, 2018, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

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Thanks for reading my article on the absence of Michael Thomas and who might fulfill his role. For more content follow us @OTH_Football and @TayyibAbu1

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