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AFR: Assuming Colston's replacement is risky for Saints

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) -

The image is firmly planted in the minds of anyone who has observed the Saints offense over the last decade.

From the red zone, Drew Brees takes the snap, looks left, pump fakes, then turns and throws the ball to Marques Colston down the right hash on a seam route. Colston jumps, rotates his body and catches the pass as the safety over the top of him and the linebacker under him hit him simultaneously for a touchdown.

It was the signature play of the NFL's signature offense over the last ten years.

That memory can last forever. But Colston's career in New Orleans cannot. As he usually does, Father Time finally took hold of the 'Quiet Storm.'

The reported move to move on from Colston was tough but correct. His best days were behind him and the cost of keeping just doesn't match with his production.

I could go on for days about my level of respect for Colston. The word 'underrated' does him no justice. I've never understood how the number one receiver on the one of the most prolific offenses of the last decade never got the proper recognition he deserves. It's as if he was the only productive receiver that ever had an elite quarterback. Thus, every single one of his stats could only be attributed to the greatness of Drew Brees. It was, and always will be complete nonsense, and Brees would tell you the same thing.

But this isn't a column to relive the past Colston accolades and injustices, it's one to express concern about the Saints' future without him.

Simply put, assuming the Saints have a ready-made replacement for Colston in Brandon Coleman, as has been suggested, is very risky.

Coleman and Colston have similar size. But based on what he's shown the last two years, that's where the sameness stops.

Coleman improved last year, no doubt. His 30 catches were a nice improvement from a player that looked very raw in year one. But to say he showed enough growth to be the guy to adequate replace the greatest wide receiver in franchise history is a bit of a stretch , and frankly, unfair to Coleman.

While their size is comparable, they use it in totally different ways. Colston played to every bit of his 6'5 frame and used it to his advantage. His long torso boxed defenders out on tough catches. His wingspan gave him a large catch radius.

Coleman doesn't always play like a 6'6 receiver. A lot of his catches were close to his body, and he's never been a natural catcher.

Colston made a living between the hash marks with seam routes and digs. The seam route is Brees' best throw and it was Colston's best route. The two executed it to perfection for a very long time.

Coleman seems more comfortable in routes outside of the numbers, with outs and comebacks. In fact, there was one seam route he ran during last season that should have been a touchdown. Instead, he let a smaller defender wrestle it away.

None of this is to knock the development of Coleman, he progressed nicely from year one to year two. He should grow even more in year three and become a nice piece to this offense.

But at his best, is he the next Colston? It's a fair question without a definitive answer.

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