Words and tone from Drew Brees and Sean Payton have told a lot about the Saints' newest tight end. My translation: The Saints yearn for more from Coby Fleener. The former Colts tight end hasn't been reliable enough lately on catching passes. He also isn't on the same page with Brees on some routes. Maybe I'm reading too much into things, but I feel like I've seen Josh Hill more involved in the passing game the last couple of practices. Maybe the weird drop to third team in a Saints "unofficial" depth chart really was a message.
This report came a few days after Sean Payton said that Fleener is still a "work in progress." Brees has spoken very favorably of Fleener this offseason, but the latest buzz isn't terribly encouraging. Fleener has a ton of upside in this offense but he's suddenly looking a bit risky. We're still buying, but we've moved him behind Delanie Walker and Travis Kelce, who are more established in their respective offenses.
It's easy to see the things Coby Fleener does well on a football field.
The 6-foot-6 tight end can get open, catch the ball and run downfield, and in a New Orleans Saints offense in which quarterback Drew Brees likes to throw to tight ends, Fleener should have plenty of chances to showcase those skills.
However, some of the finer points of the position could limit Fleener's opportunities as he adjusts to a new offense.
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"I'd say it's an ongoing progression," coach Sean Payton said Monday of Fleener's adjustment process. "I think, man, there's some plays that are real good, and then there's some plays where we've got to be a little bit more detailed and that's something that I know he's got to work on."
As the story pointed out, he's clearly the top tight end for the passing game, both from his performance this summer and his five-year, $36 million contract. Josh Hill bobbling a pass from Brees that resulted in an interception by rookie cornerback De'Vante Harris only provided another reason to think Fleener will be the main target in the tight end group. However HC Sean Payton said there's a lot more to being a TE than catching passes and Fleener still has some work to do.
It's safe to say New Orleans Saints tight end Coby Fleener is still trying to learn the nuances of playing with Drew Brees after playing with the same quarterback for his entire college and NFL career in Andrew Luck.
Brees is still learning Fleener's game, of course. Yet Fleener seems well aware of who's the boss and it's more about learning Brees than vice versa.
"There's absolutely some catching up to do on my part," Fleener said after Day 4 of training camp practices Sunday at The Greenbrier. "Drew can write the playbook if he wanted to. He's just that well versed in what we're doing.
The last two days displayed how quickly the two are coming along the story said. It added Brees connected with Fleener on a few intermediate routes in team drills, and also a one-armed grab with a ball thrown behind him in team drills. On Sunday, Brees hit Fleener perfectly on a deep seam route for a long touchdown connection.
Wednesday, July 27, 2016, 7:39pm
"We haven't made any progress," general manager Mickey Loomis said Wednesday evening when asked for an update on contract negotiations with the franchise quarterback.
Brees, who's entering the final year of his contract, told ESPN last week that he'd like to have a new deal in place by the start of the regular season, and when asked about that deadline Loomis said, "That's fine."
Both Loomis and Payton said they don't expect the lack of an extension to be a distraction for the 37-year-old quarterback during training camp.
“We watched a lot of film on him last year, just because we played the AFC South,” Brees told reporters. “It felt like every time we turned on the film to watch an opponent that we were about to play, I’m watching Colts film or Fleener film. It was like, ‘Man, this guy has an uncanny ability to separate.’ He is always open. There’s always a place to throw the ball where he can get it. It gets you excited about a guy who has that type of range and that type of feel. Time on task with a guy like that, the more time we have in this offense where he can understand the nuances and understand what I am thinking, and where I want him to be, and when I want him to be there, and when and where the ball is going to be thrown — that’s when you really start cooking. That’s when you feel like a guy is uncoverable. I don’t care who is on him. He’s 6-5 or 6-6, there is a place where I can throw the ball where he can get it or nobody can.”
In the 22 games that Fleener has played over the last three seasons with Dwayne Allen sidelined, he has averaged 4.1 catches for 54 yards and 0.45 TD. Those averages would have been good enough to finish 7th in standard scoring and 6th in PPR in 2015. When only looking at seven such games in the last two seasons, Fleener has averaged 5.4 catches for 82 yards and 0.86 TD. He landed in a great spot (New Orleans), where he’ll be asked to replace Ben Watson, who was 7th in tight end targets last year. It doesn't hurt that Fleener hasn't missed a game in the last three years, either.
"His improvement over these six practices has been awesome," Brees said, via The Times-Picayune. "From Day 1 until now, the same mistakes are not being made. He's on to the next set of challenges, and he's continuing to progress well."
"I gave him a route that we have literally never repped before together," Brees said. "In fact, I don't think we'd ever even talked about it. But I was just in the moment, and he's my guy at that position, so I gave him the signal. He goes and makes the play and ran the route just like I imagined."
The 6-foot-3 receiver was drafted in part to help replace Marques Colston, especially in the red zone. It might not happen out of the gate, but having an early rapport with the starting quarterback is a solid first step towards a productive first campaign. Getting raved about is the cherry on top.
Thomas will likely take over Marques Colston's role which means he'll play about 60-70% of the snaps. Brandin Cooks is locked in as the WR1, while Willie Snead turned in a good first season as the team's WR2. With Coby Fleener bound to soak up targets at tight end, Thomas will have a tough time being fantasy relevant unless he's able to overtake Snead.
The Saints announced that tight end Coby Fleener agreed to a five-year contract Wednesday. NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reports it's a $36 million contract. The former Indianapolis Colts tight end should be a good match for Drew Brees, who is at his best throwing the ball up the seams.
This is a great landing spot for Fleener after the Colts decided to instead re-sign Dwayne Allen. In the 22 games that Fleener has played over the last three seasons with Allen sidelined, he has averaged 4.1 catches for 54 yards and 0.45 TD. Those averages would have been good enough to finish 7th in standard scoring and 6th in PPR in 2015. When only looking at seven such games in the last two seasons, Fleener has averaged 5.4 catches for 82 yards and 0.86 TD. It doesn't hurt that he hasn't missed a game in the last three years, either. He and Brees should develop a quick rapport.
Friday, January 1, 2016, 6:26pm
Wednesday, December 30, 2015, 6:13pm
Tuesday, December 29, 2015, 9:20pm
While the rumors of both Drew Brees and Sean Payton possibly being on the way out of New Orleans are swirling, the signal caller for the Saints wants no part of them. To put it simply, Brees isn't buying into the fact that he or Payton are going anywhere anytime soon.
When asked about whether Brees could see a scenario in which he and Payton aren't back in New Orleans, he didn't skip a beat.
Via Conor Orr of NFL.com:
"No, I don't," he said. "I think we -- a plan was put in place throughout last offseason as to how we were going to build a foundation by which to make a run at it in the future. That includes some new faces, that includes some young players that, I think, will all have a chance to come together and kind of build a team that can make a run at it in the future.
"Unfortunately, we had high expectations going into this year and we fell a bit short. But I'm confident with the character, the leadership, the talent we have."
Tuesday, December 29, 2015, 11:16am
With the team set for its second straight losing season and facing significant salary-cap constraints, there has been much speculation surrounding the future of both longtime Saints.
"A plan was put in place throughout last offseason as to how we were going to build a foundation to make a run at it in the future," Brees said. "That includes new faces, includes young players. I think we are all having a chance to come together and build what will be a team that will really make a run for it."
Friday, December 25, 2015, 10:17pm
Saints QB Drew Brees (foot, questionable) missed practice again Thursday and is questionable for Week 16. Brees is being described as “day-to-day” with a plantar fascia injury in his foot. He is hoping to finish the season, so for now we’re expecting him to play through the injury. He said he has “every intention” of playing on Sunday. The Saints play late, so if his status is still up in the air, it will put owners in a tough spot.
Thursday, December 24, 2015, 6:12pm
Saints QB Drew Brees (foot) missed practice again Thursday. Brees is being described as “day-to-day” with a plantar fascia injury in his foot. He is hoping to finish the season, so for now we’re expecting him to play through the injury. He said he has “every intention” of playing on Sunday. The Saints play late, so if his status is still up in the air, it will put owners in a tough spot.
If we don't have more clarity by the weekend, it's going to put owners in a tough spot since the Saints play late on Sunday.
Wednesday, December 23, 2015, 6:11pm
Saints QB Drew Brees (foot) did not practice Wednesday. Brees is being described as “day-to-day” with a plantar fascia injury in his foot. He is hoping to finish the season, so for now we’re expecting him to play through the injury.
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