Deonte Harris Proving His Value To New Orleans Saints

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The New Orleans Saints boast one of the deepest rosters in the NFL. On Sunday, Deonte Harris‘ speed was obvious in a breakout performance. Harris enjoyed a career-high in receptions and receiving yards as the Saints eased to a 21-9 victory over the Chicago Bears. As a result, New Orleans advanced to the divisional round where they will face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a third time this season. 

Deonte Harris Proving His Value To New Orleans Saints

Deonte Harris’ speed has been evident on kick-off and punt returns since he joined the Saints as an undrafted free agent in 2019. Sean Payton raved about his returner’s elusiveness in the open field and has slowly integrated Harris into the offensive game plan in 2020. 

In the Wild Card matchup the Saints stuttered and stalled on several drives against the impressive Bears defense. However, the play of Harris was a huge positive for New Orleans. The sophomore pro caught seven balls for 83 yards. The quick twitch ability the 5’6″ receiver displays on routes is reminiscent of the way Darren Sproles used to run short-yardage routes for past Saints teams when split out wide.

Involved in the game plan early, Harris caught five passes in the first half. The Bears did not game-plan for the Saints primary returner to be a focal point of the offense. Harris hauled in only 20 receptions for less than 200 yards in the regular season, including his only career touchdown reception in Week 7. 

New Orleans Saints Advance

The Saints were up 7-3 at halftime, and in the second half their defense suffocated Chicago’s woeful offense into submission. The sputtering Saints offense never had to find top gear, but they did enough, particularly in the second half, to win the game fairly easily. Harris led the team in catches and receptions, and Michael Thomas looked sharp in his return after missing the final three weeks of the regular season with an ankle injury. The ball bounced New Orleans way a couple of times on booth reviews and challenges. A more competent offense than the Bears probably would have kept this game a lot closer and given the Saints more of a scare. 

But New Orleans took care of business Sunday night and advanced to the Divisional Round. The Saints offense will probably need to be sharper this week in their game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. A blitz-happy Buccaneers defense with a returning Devin White will be desperate to prove themselves against the Saints. 

Alvin Kamara became the focus of the offense in the second half against the Bears. His versatility will be key in the divisional round. More important, is the depth New Orleans needs to utilize. Clearly, Deonte Harris is a perfect example of just how far down this roster Drew Brees can go to find potential matchups he can use to the team’s advantage. 

Deonte Harris Development Exciting for New Orleans Saints

Signed in 2019 after going undrafted, Harris was practically unheard of coming out of Assumption College. The receiver broke numerous school records with the Greyhounds in the Northeast-10 Conference and he was the conference’s MVP in 2017.

However, one key attribute and record caught the eye of the Saints and several NFL teams scouting the receiver. Harris made his name in the return game at college. In fact, he holds the NCAA record (regardless of division) for combined touchdown returns in college football with 14. 

Still a longshot to make the roster with New Orleans his rookie year, Harris brought his elite return ability to training camp. A 78-yard touchdown return against the New York Jets in the preseason secured Harris the returner spot on the 53-man roster.

A breakout performance as part of the offense on Sunday gave Harris the spotlight his hard work deserved. Labeled “undersized” throughout his career, the former Assumption Greyhound star is breaking ankles and turning heads at the highest level. Deonte Harris is fast becoming a fan favorite in New Orleans and could be a key part of the offense moving forward. 

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