The New Orleans Saints started out, for the third straight season, with two losses. Both losses have come within 3 points or less, and it seems the brass is putting some of the blame on Coby Fleener, their new, expensive tight end signing.
Drew Brees targeted Fleener 12 times through the first two games, a one-point loss to the Oakland Raiders and a 3 point loss to the New York Giants. Fleener has so far come up with only 3 receptions for 35 yards and 0 touchdowns. When you sign someone for five years and $36 million, you expect a little bit more, especially on a team like the Saints, that has to win now before Brees gets too old, and with three years out of the last four without making the playoffs.
Fleener wasn’t that effective on the Colts either, known for dropping passes during his first two years on the team. He got things together in 2014 with 774 yards and 8 touchdowns, but regressed back to 491 yards and only 3 touchdowns last season. That might have had something to do with the team missing Andrew Luck for more than half the season.
Fleener needs to get better, because Brees feels naked without his security blanket. Fleener isn’t Jimmy Graham (who is having his own set of problems without Brees while playing in Seattle), but Brees needs a trusted target he can throw to for the short to middle ranges. Brees is usually more comfortable throwing deep, and a lot. Now without Marques Colston and Graham, he’s finding it difficult to trust someone to open up shorter routes, which is why teams can shut down the Saints offense at certain moments more easily.
There are 11 tight ends in the NFL making more than Fleener on average, but that doesn’t mean he’s allowed to be so difficult to connect with. The Saints rely on a tight end making things easier for Brees, as the Saints need their offense to click with their oh so vulnerable defense. Making mistakes on an expensive signing like Fleener is something they simply can’t afford to have, knowing another failure this season will send the team into a tailspin they don’t know when they’ll get out of.