<
>

Youth movement could take over New Orleans Saints' WR corps

A new generation of New Orleans Saints receivers could begin to make their mark this summer. As a result, there might not be a more compelling position group on the entire roster.

They’re up next in my position-by-position look at the Saints’ roster battles as we head toward the start of training camp. Players report to The Greenbrier resort in West Virginia on July 29, with the first practice July 30.

Position: Wide receiver

53-man roster projection: Brandin Cooks, Marques Colston, Nick Toon, Brandon Coleman, Seantavius Jones.

Missing the cut: Josh Morgan, Joe Morgan Jalen Saunders, Willie Snead, R.J. Harris, Kyle Prater, Lance Lewis.

Analysis: The excitement starts with second-year pro Cooks, who appears poised to become the Saints’ top offensive weapon. His dynamic speed can hurt defenses on deep balls as well as the short stuff like screens and end-arounds. He was leading all rookie receivers with 53 catches when he broke his thumb in Week 11 last season.

Colston should also be able to lock down a starting job for the 10th year -- and could possibly become even more involved in the red zone now that tight end Jimmy Graham is gone.

After those two is where it really gets interesting. The Saints will have two relative newcomers in their top-four rotation after trading away Graham and receiver Kenny Stills and opting not to re-sign Robert Meachem.

Fourth-year pro Toon will get the first crack at the No. 3 job since he’s been waiting in line the longest. Although Toon seems to be one of the stars of camp every summer, he’s never earned a regular gig in the regular season. But he helped his case with a solid finish to last season when he finally got an extended opportunity -- 17 catches for 215 yards and a touchdown over the final six games.

Toon (6-4, 218) can help his case even more if he proves to be a strong blocker (a valued skill that used to be one of Meachem’s specialties). That’s also the best path to the roster for the veteran Morgans (no relation) -- both of whom are strong blockers.

I came very close to keeping Josh Morgan as a sixth receiver after watching him catch a ton of passes in organized team activities and minicamp. But he doesn’t have the all-important "upside" of guys like Coleman and Jones -- two undrafted rookies from 2014.

Coleman’s massive size (6-foot-6, 225) makes him the most intriguing roster contender since he could develop into a red-zone monster. Coleman seemed to be playing faster and more at ease this summer after struggling last summer -- a good sign that he’s on the rise.

Jones shouldn’t get lost in Coleman’s shadow. The 6-3, 200-pounder has flashed a great combination of size and athleticism. And he was actually promoted to the active roster ahead of Coleman late last season when the Saints needed injury reinforcements.

Both second-year pros will likely make the 53-man roster based on their potential. But to make an impact this season they will have to crack that top-four rotation, which is still a wide-open battle.