New Orleans Saints: What to Expect from Devery Henderson in Week 1

Eric SteitzAnalyst IIISeptember 5, 2012

New Orleans Saints: What to Expect from Devery Henderson in Week 1

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    The New Orleans Saints open their season Sunday against highly touted rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins.

    New Orleans, of course, has one of the best quarterbacks in the league in Drew Brees, but the receiving group is a bit different this season.

    Robert Meachem went to San Diego this offseason, allowing Devery Henderson to take the starting spot opposite Marques Colston.

    Henderson has been a fantasy owners' headache since coming into the league in 2005, but he could see an expanded role this season.

    Entering his ninth NFL season, the LSU product has just 223 catches and 19 touchdowns. He has been a perennial underachiever in the always-talented Saints wideout group.

    Could this be his breakout season? Probably not, but he should see an increased number of targets. If he decides to be more physical, Henderson may even get some looks in the red zone.

    The season opener should indicate just how big of a role the Saints want Henderson to play this season.

    Here are my predictions for the 30-year-old receiver in Week 1 against the ‘Skins.

Targets

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    Drew Brees is an equal-opportunity quarterback. Last season, five players had over 50 receptions.

    It is fairly normal for him to have six or more players catch a pass in a single game. Against the Houston Texans in Week 3, eight different players had a reception.

    Henderson had three.

    Henderson gained some momentum in the Saints’ preseason game against Jacksonville. The veteran snagged four catches, including a one-handed grab in the end zone.

    Marques Colston and Lance Moore will get the majority of the targets, but if Henderson can continue his improved route running this season, he may be open more often.

    Brees has no problem throwing to the open man, no matter who he is. Henderson was targeted 50 times last season in 13 games. He will get more snaps this season, increasing his chances of more receptions.

    Washington’s pass defense was 12th in the league last season, and it gave up 22 touchdowns through the air.

    Expect Henderson to get five to eight targets in Week 1.

Receptions

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    Henderson has struggled with consistency in his career, and his effort has been questioned at times.

    The former second-round pick ran a 4.4-second 40-yard dash and is a good deep threat with his ability to stretch the field.

    He’s the football equivalent to baseball’s Adam Dunn. He can hit the long ball but struggles for average.

    Henderson will need to "hit for a better average" early this season if he wants to keep his job. The Saints are loaded with talented receivers, and spaces are becoming limited for subpar performers.

    The 30-year-old’s most impressive game last season was the opener against Green Bay. He caught six passes for 100 yards and a touchdown.

    Still, he had three receptions or less in all but two games last season, including the Packers game.

    Expect four receptions from Henderson in the opener this year.

Yards and Scores

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    Henderson’s speed makes him a big-play receiver.

    He averaged 15.7 yards per reception last season; a significant drop from the 23.3 yards per reception he averaged in 2010.

    He had two receptions of 20-plus yards and two receptions of 40-plus yards in 2011, including a career-long 79-yard reception.

    Henderson is consistently inconsistent.

    A look at last year’s numbers: Four games of 60 yards or more (two for 100 or more). Three games of 30 to 50 yards. Six games of 15 yards or less.

    A fast start will be crucial for the longest-tenured Saints offensive player. Precise route running and even a physical aspect will help his cause for targets.

    Expect 50 to 70 yards and a touchdown from Henderson.