It's unfortunate that we won't see Michael Thomas for at least the next four games. Thomas was placed on injured reserve with a knee injury on Tuesday afternoon by the Saints, with the exact nature of the injury still unknown. With New Orleans being without one of their top offensive weapons for almost a month, it's presents a tremendous opportunity for Chris Olave.
The second-year receiver has had quite the roller coaster season, having a strong start to the year in the first three games. The next two contests against Bucs and Patriots saw him relatively be a non-factor, although he did find the end zone in New England. Against the Texans and Jaguars, Olave saw 25 total targets, which included a career-high 15 against Jacksonville on Thursday Night Football. The timing clearly wasn't there and the chemistry was off between he and Derek Carr, but Olave still hauled in 14 passes for 153 yards.
Then came the arrest in Kenner for speeding with a video being released of the incident on Oct. 23, and it affected him on the field too. Olave was candid with the media over two weeks ago, saying that he wasn't playing too well and in a little bit of a slump with the incident. However, the adversity didn't get him too down and he kept his head up to get through the slump.
"That's just life. There's always going to be ups and downs," Olave said. "I've been in a little slump like the past month, but it's just the standard. I work hard in the offseason. That's just what life throws at us, so I've just got to keep going. Adversity just tests your character. I know I'm going to get through it and hopefully I just got to have one good game that's going to allow me to bounce back."
Olave said that he has a standard for himself with the expectation being real high, higher than anybody. During the month of October, he admitted that he hasn't been where the standard is, and he needed that one game to get it back. Perhaps the showing against the Vikings and the bye week to reset was what he needed to springboard him, and he has the confidence of the locker room and coaching staff to power through.
"My message to him is don't make the same mistake twice," wide receivers coach Kodi Burns told Saints News Network recently. "Just continue to work and the ball will come your way and there's going to be a moment in time throughout the course of the season where we're gonna need you to possibly be the number one."
Olave is now in the space to be the top guy, regardless of whether he's catching passes from Derek Carr or Jameis Winston. With seven games to go, New Orleans can't afford to have any drop-off in offensive production after believing they've made marked improvement there. Other young guns like Rashid Shaheed, A.T. Perry, Lynn Bowden Jr., and Keith Kirkwood will also have to step up in this time without Thomas.
Olave ranks 20th in the league with 657 yards receiving and is 17th in catches with 56. His first big challenges comes on Sunday against the Falcons, a team that he hasn't yet had 'off-the-charts' performances against, but that can easily and hopefully change for the Saints wideout.