News broke that Michael Thomas is expected to miss the start of 2021. The star wide receiver has had a saga of injury issues over the last calendar year. The ankle injury has not healed correctly and will cause Thomas to undergo further surgery in order to return him to full strength.
The news comes at a terrible time for the Saints, who are already buckling after the retirement of Drew Brees. Here are five ways the loss of Thomas creates new challenges for the New Orleans Saints in 2021.
How the New Orleans Saints will be challenged sans Michael Thomas
#1 - Extra workload for Alvin Kamara and a risk of injury
Alvin Kamara is one of the best running backs in the NFL, that much is for certain. Without Thomas in 2021, he will be forced to make up the difference in production. Granted, he did an admirable job of this in 2020 when he earned 1,800 total yards and 21 total touchdowns. That said, just two days away from turning 26, Kamara cannot continue to take the number of hits he has been taking.
If this continues much longer, Kamara could easily end up in the same situation as Christian McCaffery and Saquon Barkley. The Saints would then have both of their top offensive weapons riddled with niggles.
#2 - Asking more of Jameis Winston
Without Michael Thomas on the field, Winston lacks a get-out-of-jail-free card at the wide receiver position. Considering Winston's well-documented struggles with turnovers and seeing the field clearly, a lack of weapons could create all of the interceptions without the matching touchdowns.
#3 - Blows up Sean Payton's gameplan
Going into 2021, Payton had a vision for the offense. Michael Thomas was, of course, a cornerstone. Without him, Payton now has to draw up a plan B. Needless to say, plan Bs are always a step down from plan A.
To add fuel to the fire, defenses have also seen the Saints' backup plan when Thomas was out for most of last season. They will be more prepared for what the Saints pivot to.
#4 - Unknown return timeline
Most injuries have a relatively accurate timeline for a player's return. However, the Michael Thomas injury saga has had more twists and turns than Star Wars. With the latest development further pushing his return, the Saints are in a sort of purgatory where they will need to figure out how to plan for an absence that could be short or very long-term.
#5 - Increased workload for WR depth
With Michael Thomas likely out, the wide receivers will all need to play above their paygrade. Sans Thomas, every receiver will move up the depth chart. This creates a disadvantage for the offense as the second best receiver will be taking on the best cornerbacks and safeties, the third-best wide receiver will be taking on the second-best cornerback, and so on.
Without Thomas to act as a buffer for the depth, their odds of breaking out seem minuscule.