Following his eye-opening performance in the New Orleans Saints' 35-17 win over the Buffalo Bills, rookie wide receiver Kenny Stills should unquestionably have a much bigger role in the Saints offense.
The fifth-round draft choice out of Oklahoma enjoyed a breakout game against the Bills on Sunday, as he reeled in three catches for 129 yards and two touchdowns. This followed an impressive outing against New England in the previous game, when he caught three balls for 64 yards and made a spectacular go-ahead touchdown grab with just over three minutes left in the game.
Against Buffalo, Stills electrified the home crowd at the Superdome, as both of his touchdowns came on long pass plays of 69 and 42 yards. He was only targeted four times in the game, however, and coach Sean Payton should see to it that Stills is more involved in the Saints' offensive game plan.
Engineered by Payton and masterfully executed by quarterback Drew Brees, the New Orleans offense is among the NFL's elite units. The Saints' offensive success is predicated on spreading the ball around to a host of talented playmakers.
Any rundown of New Orleans' offensive weapons begins with tight end Jimmy Graham, who ranks among the NFL's top receivers. There's also explosive all-purpose back Darren Sproles, who's a threat to score any time he touches the ball.
On the outside is 6'4" wide receiver Marques Colston, who has a clearly defined role in Payton's offense as a possession receiver. Manning the other receiver spot is Lance Moore, who has reliable hands as well as strong chemistry with Brees.
What New Orleans lacks, however, is a speedy deep threat. The 5'9" Moore, while proven, is rather short for an outside receiver and also lacks great speed.
Stills, on the other hand, not only has great speed, but has adequate height at 6'0". He possesses the necessary attributes to emerge as the next big-name playmaker in the Saints offense, but he needs more targets.
Seven games into the season, Stills has 13 catches for 327 yards, which is certainly respectable for a rookie. These numbers serve as evidence, however, that for a player who has three touchdowns in the last two games, he's been used rather sparingly this season.
Nearly half of his catches, a majority of his yards and all of his touchdowns came in the last two contests. On the heels of his impressive showing against the Patriots, Stills received more looks from Brees against Buffalo and rightfully so.
That being said, he deserves more.
His speed and athleticism simply cannot be taught, and his ability to stretch the field should be utilized to the fullest extent.
Conventional wisdom suggests that Payton will orchestrate a suitable role for Stills in the New Orleans offense in the coming weeks. An added weapon will take pressure off Graham and Colston, thus making them even more effective as receivers.
In addition, a legitimate deep threat will likely do wonders for the New Orleans running game, which has struggled this season. With Stills flying downfield and Brees giving him frequent looks, opposing safeties will be on their heels a bit more and won't commit as quickly to stopping the run.
With Graham and Colston controlling the middle of the field, Moore perfecting short out routes to the sidelines and Sproles slipping out the backfield, Brees has a host of dynamic playmakers to distribute the ball to.
But Kenny Stills provides the deep threat that could transform the already-formidable New Orleans offense into an unstoppable juggernaut.
The time is now for the Saints to increase Stills' role and take their offense to the next level.