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The All-Time New Orleans Saints Team: Tight End

The Saints have found creative ways to integrate their tight ends into their offensive scheme throughout their years in existence. However, no tight end has been quite as dynamic for the team as the one featured in today’s article.

Jimmy Graham

In the third round of the 2010 NFL Draft, the New Orleans Saints decided to select tight end Jimmy Graham from the Miami Hurricanes. Graham had played basketball for the Hurricanes from 2005-2009. After graduating in 2009, he decided to take graduate classes while also playing a season of football. Many scouts were wary of Graham given that he was a very raw prospect. However, the Saints recognized just how special he could be.

Graham spent his rookie season playing behind veteran tight end Jeremy Shockey. Graham scored his first touchdown in week nine of that season as he hauled in a 19-yard strike from quarterback Drew Brees. This first connection was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Graham took the reigns from Shockey in 2011 as he became the starting tight end for the Saints. Graham made the most of his opportunities as he enjoyed a historic season. He set a then-franchise record for receptions in a single season as he hauled in 99 catches. Current Saints’ wide receiver Michael Thomas has since broken that mark twice. Graham also tied wide receivers Marques Colston and Joe Horn for most receiving touchdowns in a season with 11. In week 17, Graham broke an NFL record for receiving yards by a tight end 1,310 yards. Unfortunately, that record was broken later that day by New England Patriots’ tight end Rob Gronkowski. Graham earned a Pro Bowl trip and a place on the AP’s second-team All-Pro for his tremendous season.

Graham continued to meet with success in 2012. However, in 2013 he was truly unguardable. Graham caught 86 receptions for 1,215 yards and a franchise single-season record 16 touchdowns. Graham once again earned a trip to the Pro Bowl, and also was named to the AP’s first-team All-Pro.

Despite Graham’s tremendous success in 2013, his season was more infamously known for a certain celebration. During a week 12 matchup with the Atlanta Falcons, Jimmy Graham scored a touchdown and celebrated by slam dunking the football over the goalpost. This was a callback to his days on the basketball court for the Miami Hurricanes. Graham bent the goalpost during his celebration. The NFL has recently implemented a new rule which deemed this act to be “unsportsmanlike conduct”. The celebration resulted in a penalty for the Saints and a $30,000 fine for Graham.

After his dominant performance in 2013, Graham became a free agent, yet the Saints wanted to keep the young star on their team. They placed a non-exclusive franchise tag on Graham which meant he could negotiate and sign with another team, but the Saints had the right to match the offer and retain Graham. If the Saints didn’t match an offer for Graham, the other team would then owe the Saints two first-round draft picks.

No offer was made for Graham but negotiations between him and the Saints became extremely complicated as he believed he should be paid as a wide receiver given that the Saints primarily lined him up as such, yet the Saints wanted to pay him as a tight end, his official position. The two sides eventually agreed on a four-year deal with $21 million guaranteed and a total of $40 million over four years. This deal made Graham the league’s highest-paid tint end at the time. Graham played well in 2014 once again earning a spot on the Pro Bowl.

After Graham’s 2014 season, the Saints traded him to the Seattle Seahawks for center Max Unger and a first-round draft pick in 2015. Graham never found the same success in Seattle that he did in New Orleans. After three seasons with the Seahawks, Graham was released.

During the 2018 offseason, Graham has two teams to consider signing with; the Green Bay Packers or the New Orleans Saints. Saints’ fans were extremely excited at the thought of Graham returning home given that tight end was a need for the Saints. Ultimately, Graham signed with the Packers.

After a lackluster season with the Packers, many speculations and rumors have surfaced of the Packers releasing Graham for the 2019 offseason. If Graham is released, a trip back home to the Super Dome may be the best option for Graham at this stage in his career.

Graham’s career stats in New Orleans are truly spectacular as he ranked fourth in receptions (386), fifth in receiving yards (4,752), and second in touchdowns (51). Hopefully, Graham will design with the New Orleans Saints and add to his career totals.

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The All-Time New Orleans Saints Team: Wide Receivers

The New Orleans Saints have had one of the most explosive offenses in the league over the last thirteen years. However, despite their relatively recent offensive success, they’ve had quite a few dynamic wide receivers throughout their 51 years in existence. I chose four wide receivers to add to the all-time roster. These four players have left a lasting impact on the franchise, it’s fans, and the entire league, as one of the chosen players is currently taking the NFL by storm.

Marques Colston

The Saints had a very successful NFL Draft in 2006 as they selected running back Reggie Bush, safety Roman Harper, and offensive linemen Jahri Evans and Zach Strief. With their final pick that year, the New Orleans Saints elected to draft a wide receiver with tight end-size from Hofstra by the name of Marques Colston. At 6’5″ Colston was projected by many to become a tight end at the professional level, but Colston was also projected to go undrafted.

Colston soon got his chance to prove all his doubters wrong. Colston showed the coaching staff what he was capable of during minicamp. The staff was so impressed that they felt comfortable thrusting Colston into a starting role as fellow wide receiver Donté Stallworth was soon traded away.

Colston’s rookie season was a very productive one as he quickly became a favorite target of the Saints newly signed quarterback, Drew Brees. Colston led the team in both receiving yards (1,038) and receiving touchdowns (8) while also finishing second in receptions (70). Colston would also finish the season tied for second in voting for Offensive Rookie of the Year behind Tennessee Titans’ quarterback Vince Young. However, Colston was named to the Pro Football Writers Association (PFWA) All-Rookie Team.

Colston continued to develop in his second year as he posted what would be the best numbers of his career. Colston led the team in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns as he hauled in 98 catches for 1,202 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Two years later, Colston played a major role in the team’s success which ultimately led to the franchise’s first-ever Lombardi trophy. He once again led the team in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns. Colston truly was a dominant force on an explosive offense.

Colston played his final game for the black and gold in 2015 as he was released by the organization during the following offseason.

Colston’s career was nothing short of amazing as he finished with several career franchise records. He is the Saints’ all-time leader in receiving yards (9,759), yards from scrimmage (9,766), receiving touchdowns (72), total touchdowns (72), and receptions (711).

Colston has not yet been enshrined in the New Orleans Saints’ Hall of Fame, however, he is practically guaranteed a spot due to his significance in his team’s success.

Joe Horn

Joe Horn spent 1992 and 1992 playing for Itawamba Community College in Fulton, Mississippi. There, he was able to haul in 54 catches for 878 yards and seven touchdowns during his two-year tenure. Horn was not qualified for Division I college football after his time at Itawamba, so he returned to his high school town of Fayetteville, North Carolina where he worked at a fast food restaurant and a furniture factory. Little did he know, Horn would eventually go from frying chicken to frying defenses in the NFL.

After two years in Fayetteville, Horn tried out for the CFL Baltimore Stallions. He was signed to their practice squad but he never played in a game for the team. He then spent a minor stint with the Shreveport Pirates. Then, on March 28, 1995, he signed with the Memphis Mad Dogs where he caught 71 receptions for 1,415. Not only did he catch a lot of footballs, but he also caught the attention of the NFL.

The Kansas City Chiefs selected Horn in the fifth round of the 1996 NFL Draft. However, Horn was mostly used on special teams and a reserve wide receiver.

In 2000, Horn’s journey with the Saints began as he signed with the team in the offseason. Horn’s first season with the Saints was a successful one as he caught 94 receptions for 1,340 yards and eight touchdowns on his way to his first ever pro bowl.

Joe Horn is perhaps most famously known for his infamous cell phone celebration. On December 14, 2003, the New Orleans Saints demolished the New York Giants largely due to the play of Horn. Joe Horn hauled in nine receptions for 133 yards and a franchise-record four touchdowns in one game. After scoring his second touchdown, Horn ran to the goal post, lifted the padding, and pulled out a cell phone which he had immediately used to make a phone call. The team received a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct because of this, however, Horn’s spectacular performance and iconic celebration are forever etched in the memories of the Who Dat Nation.

In seven seasons with the New Orleans Saints, Horn eclipsed 1000 yards four times while being selected for the Pro Bowl four times as well. In total, Horn caught 523 passes for the New Orleans Saints, earning 7,622 yards and 50 touchdowns. Horn was inducted into the New Orleans Saints’ Hall of Fame in 2010, emphasizing his greatness and all he meant to his team and city.

Eric Martin

Like fellow all-time great Marques Colston, Eric Martin was a seventh-round draft pick. The Saints selected the LSU product in the 1985 NFL Draft where he was the 27th receiver taken. Martin’s career started off relatively slow as he only gained 522 yards on 35 catches.

Martin continued to develop as his numbers increased every season following his rookie year. In 1987, Martin played a crucial role in getting his team to their first-ever playoff appearance as he led the team in receiving yards with 778. Unfortunately, the Saints were eliminated in the Wildcard round by the Minnesota Vikings

The following year, Martin enjoyed his best season as a pro as he caught 85 receptions for 1,083 yards and seven touchdowns which was impressive enough to earn him a spot in the pro bowl. 1989 was a spectacular year for Martin as well as he hauled in 68 catches for 1,090 and eight touchdowns.

Martin once again eclipsed 1,000 yards in 1992. His next season would be his last with the Saints. Martin joined the Kansas City Chiefs where he would play his final professional season in 1994.

Martin’s career with the New Orleans Saints was truly spectacular. His career stats with the Saints place him second in receptions (532) and receiving yards (7,854) while also ranking fourth in receiving touchdowns (48).

Eric Martin earned a spot in the New Orleans Saints’ Hall of Fame in 1999, becoming only the second wide receiver in team history to earn that honor at that time.

Michael Thomas

Michael Thomas, a young, dynamic wide receiver coming out of Ohio State University, was selected by the New Orleans Saints in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Five wide receivers were selected during the draft before the Saints chose Thomas.

Thomas burst onto the scene in his rookie campaign as he quickly became a top target for star quarterback Drew Brees. Thomas led the team in receptions with 92 which broke the franchise’s rookie record. Thomas also set franchise rookie records for receiving yards (1,137) and touchdowns (9). Thomas was also selected to the PFWA All-Rookie Team

In his second season, Thomas earned the number one receiver role as the team traded away Brandin Cooks during the offseason. Thomas surpasses his rookie numbers, hauling in 104 receptions for 1,245 yards and five touchdowns. Thomas’ success earned him Pro Bowl recognition.

In 2018, Thomas truly evolved into an unstoppable force as he lived up to his Twitter handle, “Can’t Guard Mike”. During his third season, Thomas broke several franchise records. During the team’s week one matchup with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Thomas broke the franchise’s record for receptions in a single game by hauling in 16 catches. Nearly two months later in week nine of the regular season, Thomas broke yet another record as he earned 211 receiving yards and a spot in the record books as the Saints defeated the Os Angeles Rams. Late in the 4th quarter of that game, Thomas caught a 75-yard touchdown after beating Rams’ cornerback Marcus Peters. Thomas then celebrated by recreating Joe Horn’s iconic cell phone celebration.

Thomas’ 2018 was nothing short of remarkable as he broke franchise records for receptions (125) and receiving yards (1,405) in a single season. Thomas also added nine touchdowns to his growing resume. Thomas’ 125 receptions led the league and allowed him to surpass fellow wide receivers Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. for the most receptions in a player’s first three seasons with 321. Thomas was voted to the Pro Bowl and also earned AP First-Team All-Pro honors as well as a spot on the PFWA All-NFL Team. Thomas is the only Saints’ receiver to earn a spot on the AP First-Team All-Pro list.

Despite Thomas’ regular season success, his playoff performances rise to another level. In three playoff games, Thomas has caught 27 receptions for 387 yards and three touchdowns including a monstrous performance against the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2019 Divisional round. In that game, Thomas broke another franchise record, this time for postseason receiving yards (171).

As previously mentioned, Thomas was the sixth wide receiver selected in the 2016 NFL Draft. Michael Thomas is the only wide receiver out of the first six selected to eclipse 1,000 yards in a single season.

Thomas current numbers with the Saints ranks him seventh in receptions, ninth in receiving yards, and 11th in receiving touchdowns among franchise leaders. If he continues on this dominant pace, Thomas will surely own all the top records for the New Orleans Saints and will find himself forever remembered in the New Orleans Saints’ Hall of Fame

Be sure to follow me on Twitter: @a_forsythe1020
Also follow Gumbo Sports on Twitter: @GumboSports

 

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A.J. Klein: The Saints Most Improved Player

Last year, Saints fans saw glimpses of how good linebacker A.J. Klein was. This year, Klein showed more than just glimpses, he put it all on display. When most people think about the most improved Saints player, A.J. Klein would probably not be a name that immediately came to mind. More likely would be someone like Sheldon Rankins or Taysom Hill. However, Klein really took the next step into becoming a great linebacker for a solid Saints defense.

In the 2017-2018 season, Klein had a total of 54 tackles, comprising of 37 solo and 17 assisted tackles. He also had 6 tackles for loss and 3 quarterback hits. This season, Klein improved in every single one of those categories. Klein had a total of 70 tackles, comprised of 42 solo and 28 assisted. He then had 7 tackles for loss and 4 quarterback hits. He had 0 fumble recoveries in 2017, but had 2 in 2018, returning one of them for 17 yards.

The most impressive stat in A.J.’s improvement, though, was not something you can find on a box score or game log. Every year, Pro Football Focus gives players grades based on their performance that season. Last season, Klein received a grade of 48.2. This year, Klein completely obliterated that number, coming in with a 70.4 rating. That is a massive 22.2 point increase in rating.

Klein is a solid player that deserves some recognition. He is a great emotional and physical leader for a somewhat young Saints defense. He brings an intelligent veteran presence on and off the field. Klein improved vastly from last year and doesn’t show signs of slowing down.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter @therealbduhon
Be sure to follow us on Twitter: @GumboSports

 

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Football In Febuary?

It’s true, even though the NFL ends in February after the Superbowl does not mean football will.

The AAL Alliance of American Football will pick up where the NFL leaves off. Starting Saturday, February 9th, 2019 the AAL season will kick off its ten week season.

  • Arizona Hotshots
  • Atlanta Legends
  • Birmingham Iron
  • Memphis Express
  • Orlando Apollos
  • Salt Lake Stallions
  • San Antonio Commanders
  • San Diego Fleet
  • All eight teams will take the gridiron in February, and you may recognize some familiar faces such as former NFL quarterback Mike Vick now the offensive coordinator of the Atlanta Ledgens, or maybe Zack Mettenberger the former Titans and LSU quarterback, remember former 2nd round pick, Christian Hackenberg? Yep, he is now playing for the Memphis Express. Steve Spurrier and Brad Childress are coaches in the new AAL league.
  • The league has a real shot at being a success, and for fans, that is excellent news. Many football fans play fantasy football, and it usually ends in week’s 14-15 of the NFL season. Now with the AAL fantasy football could extend into the spring. This will all depend on the success of the AAL however but imagine football in February, March, and April, and possibly more fantasy football to be played as well.

    XFL Announces the first eight cities

    The XFL has been reborn once again. This time, however, Vince McMahon wants to do it right and wants the new XFL league to be competitive and not a sideshow like the first XFL was.

    McMahon appointed former NFL quarterback and current NFL star quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts Andrew Luck’s father as the commissioner and CEO of the rebranded XFL.

    Not only is Luck on board but former NFL head coach Jim Caldwell and John Fox are as well. There is little doubt that this will be the same XFL that crumbled in its early inception in the early 2000s.

    Earlier this week we learned of the eight cities that were selected by the XFL.

    • Dallas
    • Houston
    • Los Angeles
    • New York
    • St. Louis
    • Seattle
    • Tampa Bay
      Washington, DC

    Much more is still to come regarding team names, uniforms, and coaches & players. Fans can start reserving their season tickets at xfl.com

    Maybe one day the XFL will consider New Orleans or Baton Rouge as a potential city for a franchise.