Looking at Saints without Marques Colston

There’s no question the New Orleans Saints will miss Marques Colston, who reportedly will be out for about four weeks with a broken collarbone.

ColstonColstonColston is New Orleans’ No. 1 receiver. People often point to how the Saints spread the ball around to a variety of receivers, tight ends and running backs. But I don’t know the Saints have anyone who can quite fill Colston’s role.

Although he has good speed, his size and precise route running makes him a threat over the middle and more of a possession receiver. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Colston was the ninth-most-targeted receiver on passes inside the number’s last season.

Colston’s ability to draw attention to the middle of the field is a big part of why New Orleans’ other receivers are so good outside the numbers. Through the 2010 season and the first game of 2011, quarterback Drew Brees leads the NFL with 213 completions on passes outside the numbers. He has a 64 percent completion rate on those throws, which ranks second in the NFL and 108 of those passes have gone for first downs. Brees also has thrown 17 touchdown passes on throws outside the numbers, which ties him for fourth in the league.

Devery Henderson, Lance Moore and Robert Meachem are speed receivers and they make things happen outside the numbers. During Colston’s absence, the Saints need at least one of them and tight ends Jimmy Graham and David Thomas to make some things happen over the middle so the receivers can continue to do damage on the outside.