WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — Nobody has drawn more “oohs” and “ahhs” during the first two days of New Orleans Saints camp than rookie receiver Michael Thomas did on Friday with his diving one-handed catch of a Luke McCown pass.
— Doug Mouton (@DMoutonWWL) July 29, 2016
And most of those reactions came from Thomas’s teammates and coaches.
Sean Payton called it an “amazing play.” Receiver Brandin Cooks called it “unbelievable.” Cornerback Delvin Breaux said, “Oh, man, I was like, ‘Whoa, this guy is going to be something special.’” And linebacker Stephone Anthony called it “awesome” and rated it as a 10 out of 10.
“I mean, falling to the ground, diving, one hand. Crawl in the end zone. All of the above,” Anthony said.
“Listen, I love that kid. I love that kid,” McCown said. “He has a nose for the football. And he’s got this kind of … golly, just this want to get the ball no matter where it’s at. And that’s what you want in a receiver. A guy that just wants the ball to be in his ZIP code, and he’s gonna find a way to come down with it, whether there’s somebody hanging on him or not.”
McCown said a quarterback likes to find out during the early days of camp which receivers are going to fight for the ball and “go get it” to develop confidence in them going forward.
“And it was one of those opportunities today, where I was like, ‘OK, Mike, let’s see what you got,’” McCown said. “Lay it out there for him and, man, did he make a play.”
This wasn’t Thomas’s first big moment with the Saints. He made a few highlight plays during OTAs and minicamp — especially in the red zone. And Drew Brees showered Thomas with praise after a play when he signaled a route adjustment to Thomas that they had never gone over before, and Thomas delivered.
The second-round draft pick out of Ohio State has a good chance of cracking the rotation as New Orleans’s No. 3 receiver behind Cooks and Willie Snead. And at 6-foot-3, 212 pounds, he could emerge as a top red-zone threat. If he keeps making plays like this in camp, though, he could be even more than that.
“For him, you’re seeing growth spurts right in front of your eyes. We all are,” Payton said. “That’s really encouraging, especially for a first-year player.”
Thomas’s size and ability to high-point the ball in traffic are among his most laudable traits. But as he revealed earlier this offseason, he has to give at least some credit to a trade secret passed down to him from uncle Keyshawn Johnson and other NFL veterans — hand yoga.
“It’s funny that you say that,” Cooks said when asked about Thomas’s hand yoga on Friday. “I forgot all about that until he made that catch. I’m like, ‘Maybe there’s something to it.’”