New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas found himself a marked man in Week Two.
The second-year pro received the star treatment from the New England Patriots defense and one-on-one opportunities against a cornerback weren’t often present.
“I’m seeing a lot of safety over the top with the corner and possibly a dropper — a linebacker — in the flats,” Thomas said Monday. “But I trust in the game plan and the coaches here to draw up a play to get the ball in my hands and create opportunities for me.
“I just have to take advantage of my opportunities and make a play when my number is called. I understand they might be tougher throws or contested throws, but I just have to make the play.”
The 6-foot-3, 212-pound Thomas made the most of his chances Sunday by hauling in five catches for 89 yards on 10 targets during a 36-20 loss.
And he wasn’t alone in noticing the attention from the Patriots defense when compared to the season opener against the Minnesota Vikings.
“I don’t know if in Week One that we saw anything different,” coach Sean Payton said Monday in a teleconference. “I think Minnesota is a certain scheme you prepare for and they played it.
“I would say in Week Two, yesterday (Sunday), there were a handful of number of snaps where it was a safety lean or a double in the red zone.”
That Thomas garnered the spotlight from a team that schemes exceptionally well to take away a threat doesn’t come as a big surprise.
Thomas enjoyed a breakout 2016 rookie campaign where he totaled 92 catches for 1,137 yards and nine touchdowns on 121 targets, and those numbers came with Brandin Cooks and Willie Snead in the lineup.
With Cooks now in New England and Snead serving a three-game suspension to start the season, Thomas is no secret to opposing defenses.
The Saints just need to remain flexible whenever Thomas is drawing extra attention, and other wide receivers must step up like Brandon Coleman did in Week Two with four catches for 82 yards and a touchdown on six targets.
“The first touchdown we throw to Brandon Coleman was kind of a mirrored pattern to both sides,” Payton said. “Drew (Brees) saw the overload obviously over towards Mike and came back over to Brandon.
“We have to be prepared for that and fortunately we have a veteran quarterback that can see when that’s taking place.”
Through two games, Thomas has 10 catches for 134 yards on 18 targets.
Thomas understands what the Patriots did to him won’t be a one-time deal the rest of the regular season and he fully anticipates seeing a safety rolling over to his side of the field on any given play.
“I’m sure if you watch the film, you can tell,” he said. “Whoever watches the game — I don’t know which view they watch — but if you watch it and pay attention you can see what the defense is doing.”
To neutralize the bracketed coverage, Thomas knows he just has to execute whenever the football comes his way.
“This is the NFL and they do that to a lot of premier receivers on different teams, so we just have to figure a way out and work around it,” Thomas said. “When the ball is in the air, make a play.”