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Zach Strief: Dez Bryant gives Saints momentum against the Bengals

Zach Strief
November 07, 2018 - 4:30 pm
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I had some reservations about the game this week in Cincinnati.  The Saints are coming off a tremendous stretch that saw them win on the road in Baltimore and Minnesota, and most recently, a victory over the previously undefeated L.A. Rams.  While the Bengals have been good this season, currently at 5-3, it looked to me like a game that could have led to a mental breakdown with guys possibly exhaling, before coming home to face the defending Super Bowl champ Philadelphia Eagles.  Well, if you had any doubt, like I did, of this game lacking the excitement that other games had, you no longer need to feel that way.  For a 7-1 team with all the momentum and excitement in the world, the addition of wide receiver Dez Bryant will be a polarizing and exciting addition for players and fans alike. 

Many of the concerns I’ve heard from fans concern how Dez Bryant fits into the Saints locker room.  First, let me tell you, I don’t know him.  We never met, and any opinions I have are based purely on what I’ve seen and heard.  I’ll give a better opinion on the team and how I think anyone would fit in. 

Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis have made it a cornerstone of their teams to bring in the right kind of guys.  The Saints locker room is a safe haven for its players.  It’s removed from outside forces like political bickering, negativity and hate.  While there have been seasons where the roster was not up to this standard, this team, fits it perfectly.  None of this is to say Dez wouldn’t fit in otherwise.  It is just to suggest, I don’t think any one player would affect this locker room.  The mob wins in locker rooms, and the mob in the Saints locker room is made up of great people.  On to Dez as a player.

Michael Thomas has been a force for the Saints this year.  He has games with 16, 12, 12 and 10 receptions and we are just 9 games through the season.  He’s catching 88.6% of his targets, has 5 TD’s and his 72-yard reception sealed the Saints win over previously undefeated L.A..  The problem is, there has not been as much production behind him.  No other Saints receiver has more than 12 receptions on the season.  The Saints clearly saw a need to find more production from the receiver position, but even more so, the Saints need to find a way to make teams pay, when they double Mike Thomas and Alvin Kamara. 

With the injury to Ted Ginn, the Saints lost their experience at the position and Dez Bryant adds that to the room.  He is another big, tough physical receiver to add to the position group, much like Mike Thomas.  Bryant has struggled to create as much separation the past couple of years, but he was also working with a QB in Dak Prescott, who couldn’t take the risk to thread the needle to a receiver, who could go and aggressively grab a ball while covered.  Drew Brees has made a career of doing just that.  Marques Colston, Jimmy Graham and now Michael Thomas all are guys, who were highly productive without creating huge separation in their routes.  You can see Dez running almost the same route tree as Thomas.  My perception of the signing?  The Saints have to be able to make teams pay for double teaming two players, and they weren’t really able to do that in the passing game vs. the Rams.  Dez may be the missing piece to do just that. 

The signing of Dez Bryant is a calculated low risk/high reward signing for the Saints.  At worse, Bryant doesn’t have the ability to perform at a high level anymore or doesn’t fit in with the team.  At best, the Saints have signed a former All-Pro wide receiver to add to an offense that teams already can’t handle.  Dez could make the Saints impossible to play defensively considering the combination of skill players and offensive line currently in place.

If I was betting, I’d bet Dez Bryant ends up being much closer to the best-case scenario than the worst.   Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis are well aware that they are still getting elite play out of Drew Brees and that won’t last forever.  They also have drafted at such a high level the last couple years that they have the money to take a risk like this in season. 

Payton & Loomis are doing everything they can to give this team the best possible opportunity to win.  If you’re a fan, just be excited you have an organization willing to do that.  It’s Super Bowl or bust this year.  Buckle up Saints fans…

Listen to WWL Radio's full coverage of the Saints every weekday on "Sports Talk" with Bobby Hebert & Kristian Garic (4-8 p.m. CDT) followed by "The Last Lap" with Seth Dunlap (8-11 p.m. CDT)

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