Saints roster spotlight: Receivers

A look at the New Orleans Saints receivers through the first six weeks of the 2013 season:

Looking back: The Saints haven’t been getting as much consistent production from their receivers as years past. Marques Colston leads all receivers with 24 catches for 324 yards and one touchdown. Kenny Stills has 10 catches for 198 yards and a touchdown. No other receiver has more than four catches.

There are several reasons. One, of course, is veteran Lance Moore’s hand injury that has kept him out since Week 3. Another is the fact the Saints relied so heavily -- and successfully -- on tight end Jimmy Graham over the first five weeks. And another is the particular defenses they’ve played against the past two weeks. The Chicago Bears’ zone coverage forced a lot of check-downs to running backs, while the New England Patriots’ physical man coverage kept all the receivers in check. Not all defenses are as good as those two.

Still, it was a little disconcerting the Saints couldn’t get the ball to their receivers more often against New England while the Patriots were so intent on shutting Graham down. The receivers were practically non-existent until Stills made the breakout play of his rookie season with a leaping 34-yard touchdown grab late in the fourth quarter.

Looking forward: There is growing concern Colston may be starting to lose a step in his eighth NFL season (see ESPN scouting Insider Matt Williamson’s take below). But I’m not sure that we’ve reached that point quite yet. I think the Bears and Patriots just caused unique matchup problems in two straight weeks. Obviously I don’t expect consistent 100-yard games from Colston, who has become more of a No. 2 target when Graham is healthy. But I still expect him to have plenty more big games sprinkled in throughout the year.

I’m not sure what to expect from Moore, since we don’t know his projected timetable for recovery. I assume he’ll be back sooner than later, but a hand injury is obviously a serious impediment for a receiver, so who knows when he’ll be back to 100 percent? I think Stills can help pick up the slack in the meantime. He and Nick Toon should only continue to mature as the year goes on. And Robert Meachem is obviously a capable big-play threat. I think all three of those guys are solid complementary receivers -- as long as the top guys can stay relatively healthy.

Snaps played (out of a possible 415): Colston 311, Stills 259, Moore 131, Meachem 121, Toon 101.

ESPN scouting Insider Matt Williamson’s take: “Colston’s starting to worry me a little. He’s had so many knee procedures. And he was never the fastest guy to begin with. I wonder if he’s gonna have a harder and harder time separating from press coverage. He went against (Patriots cornerback Alfonzo) Dennard a lot this last week, and Dennard’s not the fastest corner around either, and Colston couldn’t get away from him. So I’m starting to put the radar on that maybe he’s on the decline.”