Bigger and better? Michael Thomas adds 10 pounds, wants to be all-time great

METAIRIE, La. -- A bigger, better Michael Thomas?

It hardly seems possible after the New Orleans Saints receiver had one of the best rookie seasons in NFL history last year – 92 catches, 1,137 yards and nine touchdowns in just 15 games played.

But he already has one part of the formula down. Thomas (6-foot-3) said he is up to about 220 pounds after adding 10 pounds of muscle to an already-physical frame.

He's also working on the "better" part. Thomas said he is intent on making that same Year 2 leap that most NFL sophomores talk about.

"I mean, I want to be one of the best to ever play the game, so I put a lot of pressure on myself," said Thomas, who is also embracing the role of No. 1 receiver in New Orleans after the Saints traded away Brandin Cooks this offseason.

"Just because coming from a family that played in the NFL (uncle Keyshawn Johnson), and then being the guy now, I just want to take advantage of my opportunity."

Some things will be harder for last year's second-round draft pick out of Ohio State. He won't be taking any defenses by surprise this year, and he'll likely draw No. 1-caliber coverage on a weekly basis.

On the flip side, though, Thomas insisted that there are a lot of things he can do better than last year.

"When I watch film, even though I had, like, statistically a big year, I still have a lot of things I can work on," said Thomas, who said he has already been learning from new receivers coach and "technician" Curtis Johnson.

"He's real disciplined on the little things. I feel like I'm gonna be able to take my game to another level," said Thomas, who listed things like "just finishing my routes, being a technician, getting perfect depth, being at the right place at the right time, using my eyes better, visualizing the coverage pre-snap better.

"I feel like I can be a lot better, just be more disciplined, always try to catch every ball, make sure you take advantage of your opportunities and go 1-for-1 every play, every snap. Just stacking those up, and it starts with OTAs and training camp."

Thomas didn't have much comment on Cooks' departure, saying they remain friends but he knows it's a business.

"That has nothing to do with me," Thomas said. "I mean, Brandin is my friend. But we just come here and we go to work. It's a business, so we can't really control that. We just work hard. …

"We text all the time, and it is what it is. That's kind of in the past now."

Thomas' rise to a No. 1 receiver either directly or indirectly helped contribute to Cooks' exit, since Thomas emerged as a go-to guy at the same time Cooks was growing unhappy with his role in the Saints' offense. At times, Cooks felt he was used too often as a deep clear-out receiver instead of a primary option -- especially when he had zero targets in a 49-21 rout of the Los Angeles Rams.

It's unclear how much Cooks' unhappiness contributed to his departure. The Saints explained that their main reason for trading Cooks to New England was that he was in high demand (ultimately fetching the No. 32 pick in the draft), while they believed they could still field one of the NFL's best offenses without him.

Either way, Thomas' emergence helped make Cooks expendable. Thomas' job should only get harder now that he's the clear alpha dog in a receiving corps that also includes Willie Snead and newly-signed speedster Ted Ginn Jr.

But that's a challenge he seems to be embracing.