Rookie Wideout Stills Stretching The Field At Ease
In a season where the New Orleans Saints seem primed to make the playoffs, one must wonder where the team would be without a few surprise players. One of those players is rookie WR Kenny Stills, who has emerged as the team’s third wideout. In addition, Stills has become the team’s primary deep threat, an area that was of some concern for the team going into the season.
Drafted in the fifth round of this year’s NFL Draft, Stills brings with him an impressive resume from the University of Oklahoma. He was a big-play receiver, recording 204 receptions, 2,594 yards and 24 touchdowns over three seasons, ranking third in school history in receiving yards. Stills’ speed and agility make him ideal for the Saints, who were in need of a deep threat after the departure of receiver Devery Henderson to the Washington Redskins and a season-ending injury to Joe Morgan.
Stills excelled in the preseason and won the third receiver role. The Saints did bring back Robert Meachem to add depth to the roster but Stills proved he was ready to be a big-play receiver in the NFL as well when he registered a 67-yard catch in his first career start, showing off his speed and his ability to create separation.
Stills has had his rookie blues at times this season too though, with his low points coming against the Arizona Cardinals and Chicago Bears when he failed to reel in a single reception. His high point came against the Buffalo Bills. He finished that contest with three catches for a whopping 129 yards, including two touchdowns.
Overall, Stills has nice numbers for a rookie, recording 20 receptions for 448 yards and four TDs through his first 10 games. In four games this year, he has recorded a reception of 30 yards or more, and in three of those games, Stills had a reception exceeding 50 yards.
A surprising stat is that Stills actually leads the NFL in yards per catch amongst receivers who have reeled in at least 10 catches, averaging 22.4 yards per reception. Also, he has more receptions than several wide receivers taken before him in the draft, such as Minnesota's Cordarrelle Patterson and St. Louis' Tavon Austin, who have struggled to breakout thus far in 2013.
Until this week, Stills was becoming a bigger part of the offense. Over the span of four games from Week 6 to Week 10, he had 12 receptions for 303 yards and four TDs. The Saints and their fans are hoping his quiet game this past weekend was just a hiccup and that they can expect more of what they saw in the four weeks leading up to their matchup against San Francisco.
Stills' value may become more evident in the coming weeks due to the injuries that are piling up on the Saints receiving corps. WRs Lance Moore and Marques Colston have each missed some time due to nagging injuries while TE Jimmy Graham is battling through an array of injuries. Should any of those guys be inactive in future games, Stills will be called upon by QB Drew Brees to make plays.
One point that should be made is Stills has yet to be targeted more than five times in a single game this year, which shows his route running ability needs some work. Luckily, his ability to break a big play is one huge silver lining. Becoming a deep threat has opened up the middle of the field for New Orleans' other receivers and the Saints are hoping this will jumpstart Colston who has struggled to produce all year long.
Moving forward, Stills could be the X factor n the receiving corps for New Orleans and may prove to be a vital part of this dynamic offense.