METAIRIE, La. – Nick Toon’s first career fumble was a potential disaster.
The New Orleans Saints started their first offensive drive with great field position this past Monday night, thanks to a turnover. But on their second play, Toon lost a fumble at the Chicago Bears’ 4-yard line when he got popped by a helmet right on the ball.
Not only could it have derailed the Saints’ momentum in the game, but it also could have sabotaged the growing opportunity that Toon has finally received in his third NFL season.
True to form, however, Saints coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees went back to Toon quickly, completing a 10-yard pass to him later in the first quarter. He finished with four catches for 43 yards in New Orleans’ 31-15 victory.
“That’s huge,” Toon said of the Saints sticking with him. “Obviously [the fumble was] unfortunate, but that’s part of the game. And you’ve gotta have a next-play mentality -- watch the film, learn from it and not let it happen again.”
Brees said “no doubt, 100 percent” he has always put an emphasis on going back to guys soon after things such as fumbles or dropped passes to make sure they maintain their confidence – though he stressed that’s not something he worries about with Toon.
Payton agreed – though he didn’t exonerate Toon for his lack of ball security.
“I think he can be carrying it tighter than he was,” Payton said. “[But] I think Nick is someone that will work hard at correcting that and came back and gave us some good snaps the rest of the night.”
Toon has been the biggest beneficiary since Saints rookie Brandin Cooks went down with a season-ending thumb injury last month, as they play a similar position in the base offense.
After being inactive for most of the first 10 games, Toon has 13 catches for 147 yards and a touchdown in the past four games. He matched his career-high with four catches in each of the past two games.
So far, Toon has done a better job of taking advantage of his opportunity than he did last season, when he had two crucial drops in a loss to the New York Jets while getting a chance to play while starter Marques Colston was injured.
Toon, a fourth-round pick out of Wisconsin in 2012, spent his rookie season on injured reserve. He’s had strong performances every year in training camp, which has always earned him a spot on the 53-man roster. But he hasn’t been able to consistently crack the top-four rotation until now.
“We all want to be out there on the field contributing and being a part of what’s going on. It’s great to be out there helping out,” Toon said. “It definitely took a little bit of patience, but that’s just how things panned out. And I’m happy to be out there contributing and hope to keep improving every week and building off what I’ve done so far.”
How Toon performs this season could be critical for his future, especially with Colston’s future uncertain because of a high salary.