|Competition heats up among Saints receivers|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 21 August 2008 22:16|
Heading into the Saints' third preseason game at Cincinnati on Saturday night, the only certainty for the receiving corps is that Marques Colston is their leader.
David Patten, Devery Henderson, Robert Meachem, Terrance Copper and Lance Moore all are fighting for playing time, while Skyler Green is hoping his versatility as both a punt returner and receiver earns him a roster spot.
He is also third on the team in receiving yards with 70, including a 39-yard reception against Houston last weekend.
After missing some practice time and the first preseason game with a strained hamstring, Henderson is working with the first team again. Still, Payton has said that Henderson, a blazing fast running whose downfall at times has been his inability to hold onto the ball, needs to perform well consistently to keep up his playing time.
``This is another important game for Devery,'' Payton said. ``I see him fighting more for playing time ... competing against those other guys behind him - Robert Meachem, Lance Moore. Those guys are wanting to get more snaps, so that's kind of where he's at.''
Meachem, the Saints' 2007 first-round draft pick, leads the team in yardage - a refreshing development for a franchise still waiting to get him on the field during a regular-season game.
He has five catches for 140 yards, including a 60-yard touchdown that resulted mostly from Meachem's running after hauling in a short pass over the middle from Tyler Palko during the Saints' first preseason game at Arizona.
Because Henderson returned to the lineup last weekend, Meachem played less against Houston, finishing with one reception for 11 yards.
Henderson had two catches for 13 yards and also gained 9 yards on a reverse, a play well-suited to his speed.
While Payton is pleased with Meachem's progress, he said the second-year receiver may not yet be ready to take the field with the first team in this weekend's game.
``That's got to be something that's earned, and right now there are guys ahead of him,'' Payton said. ``Robert's improved and yet he's still got a ways to go.''
Copper, who at 6-feet, 207 pounds has proven a reliable reserve receiver and highly regarded special teams player for the past two seasons, appears to have a firm spot on the roster and is listed ahead of Meachem on the team's unofficial depth chart.
Seventh-round draft pick Adrian Arrington drew solid reviews from coaches early in camp, but severely sprained his big left toe during the preseason opener at Arizona and has missed valuable practice and playing time since. He won't play Saturday and may miss the last preseason game against Miami on Aug. 28, which may force the Saints to either place him on injured reserve or the practice squad, Payton said.
If it came to that, Arrington said, he'd rather be on the practice squad with a hope of playing this season but would understand if the Saints chose injured reserve to avoid the risk of another team claiming him off waivers.
Meanwhile, Moore has stood out throughout training camp as someone who rarely ever runs a route wrong or drops a catchable ball.
The fourth-year receiver may be easy to underestimate because he's relatively small (5-9, 190), came from a relatively low-profile college program (Toledo), and played in now-defunct NFL Europe between his first two NFL seasons, which were spent mostly on the Saints' practice squad.
Yet he caught three passes for 65 yards against the Texans, including a 42-yard heave from backup quarterback Mark Brunell.
``He's extremely smart and he has very reliable hands,'' Payton said. ``He's very athletic. He battles his size, but overcompensates for that in a lot of other areas. He's at a point in his career where he's past the (undrafted) free agent-Toledo-NFL Europe (tags). He's played for us and played in big games for us. He's doing a great job.''
Moore, who also has a black belt in Karate and the sort of sculpted features that might make him a good movie action hero, said he is increasingly comfortable with the Saints' offense and has refined his receiving technique, but stands ready to do whatever it takes to make the active roster for a second full season.
``If they want me to play receiver a lot, if they want me to start, if they want me to be the fifth guy, it doesn't matter,'' Moore said. ``As long as I'm out there helping, if it's on special teams, it doesn't matter. I'll hold field goals for all I care.
``As long as I'm out there helping the team to win games. That's really all I can ask for.''