David Thomas was announced as being placed on IR last night, with tight end Michael Higgins being called up to replace him on the roster at tight end. Thomas missed many games already this season with a severe concussion, and while it has yet to be publicly stated, all signs suggest he had a setback with yet another head injury. The concern has to be with this latest development if Thomas will be able to resume his football career at all. Once you get a really bad concussion they tend to come easier and more frequently, so first and foremost I want to express sadness for how Thomas’ season ended and give him best wishes for a quick recovery. Concussion problems are no joke and it seems like he’s dealing with a very serious case of it.
This is a big blow to the Saints’ depth in my opinion.
When they let Shockey go that was the rightful statement that they were ready to cut Jimmy Graham loose from the chains of limited reps. That move made David Thomas even more valuable, though, because he represented much needed depth at a position the Saints like to utilize several players. What’s left behind Graham now is an extremely one dimensional John Gilmore who is only valuable blocking. They will also use tackle Pat McQuistan as an edge blocker at times in an expanded role, I’m sure. But what made Thomas so valuable was how versatile he was. Run or pass, his skillset was varied enough that he could contribute to the offense regardless of the play call. Gilmore and McQuistan cannot do that. When they are in the game, you’re basically telling the defense it’s a run, or you’re losing an option if you pass.
It remains to be seen how much action Michael Higgins could see, but my guess is the Saints won’t trust him to contribute with the stakes of a 7-3 season and one game division lead being so high. Higgins is an undrafted rookie free agent out of Nebraska-Omaha, and quite simply I just don’t think the Saints trust him. None of us really know what he can offer to the team. I can tell you Higgings at least showed more potential as a receiver than Gilmore in preseason in the final game against Tennessee where he finished with 2 receptions for 35 yards. The Saints also thought enough of Higgins to keep him on the practice squad over veteran Tyler Lorenzen, a guy who had been around a while and knew the system. Still, I can’t see him getting much playing time unless more injuries ravage the position.
Higgins is more of a receiving tight end, the opposite of Gilmore, and his numbers in college reflect that; but he’s said to be light in the pads and in need of some grooming in the blocking department. So basically, in losing Thomas, the Saints are left with Gilmore and Higgins… two guys who barely add up to what Thomas was.
We’ll have to hope Jimmy Graham can stay healthy and continue to refine his raw skills as a blocker. The depth behind him is now paper thin.