Thursday, October 15, 2009

Saints Nation: What's to make of Lance Moore?

Coming off a stellar season in which Lance Moore was the most pleasant surprise of the year, he's followed it up with a whopping 3 catches for 39 yards through 4 games. Mostly to blame for his incredibly slow start was a shoulder injury he suffered prior to training camp while lifting weights, and a pulled hamstring he suffered early in the season. Moore may be finally turning a corner after extended rest during the bye week and seems primed to resume his prominent role in the offense. Can we expect a big resurgence though? My thoughts are things will come slowly.

As much to blame as his injuries for Moore's inactivity is the emergence of Devery Henderson. For years Henderson was a one trick pony. He'd run the token deep route on most plays where he saw action on the field. Sometimes Drew Brees would take a shot deep at him, but mostly it was used to stretch the defense and force the opposition to respect the possibility that he COULD BE thrown to. Fast forward to today and Henderson is fresh off a new contract signing and he's being used in a variety of new ways. He's being trusted to block downfield on 1st and 2nd down, he's being trusted on slant routes, and most importantly he's seeing the football on 3rd and short passing plays. To his credit, his pass catch reliability woes are a thing of the past. His emergence this year as a more polished and balanced receiver has and will mean less looks for Lance Moore, unless Henderson suffers an injury or a serious regression. Don't forget that even with the little plays Henderson makes still comes the explosiveness that could turn anything into a homerun.

Another item that could stunt Lance Moore's performance is the the current defensive schemes the Saints are facing. If you watched the Bills and Jets games, you noticed that teams are so scared of the Saints passing on them that they're leaving the door wide open for the Saints to run the ball at will. The theory, I assume, is that Sean Payton is so hard headed that he'll insist on passing even when he's dared to run. So far he's proven the opposition wrong and you've seen Pierre Thomas and Mike Bell run absolutely wild on every team the Saints have faced. This approach in "stopping" the Saints offense has yielded two straight touchdown-less games for Drew Brees, but that's about all the good it's done. It seems as though teams are picking a different poison, but the result on the scoreboard has arguably been better for the Saints. In other words, the feature back for the Saints is as valuable as ever until it becomes trendy to adopt a new scheme when facing the Saints offense (which based on the way the Mike Bell and Pierre Thomas are running the ball could be very soon).

Despite the improvement in Henderson's game and the running game prowess, expect Moore to upgrade his usefulness in the coming weeks. He's still by far the best route runner on the team (Colston could take some major lessons from him), and his hands are as sure as anyone on the team. Moore is a master at finding that dead spot in zone coverages and Brees developed a terrific rapport with him last year. Expect him to get 3-5 touches the next few weeks per game. Depending on what develops beyond that with injuries and how Moore produces, he could start to become the Lance Moore of a year ago - but don't expect that anytime soon. Right now Colston and Henderson are the clear #1 and #2 guys, but the good news for Moore is the Saints rotate their receivers often and he'll see plenty of action. Sean Payton loves the three wide receiver set package, too. Here's to hoping Sir Lance can make the most of his return to the field.