Willie Snead was just a guy trying to make a name for himself in training camp four months ago.
He didn’t know where or how he was going to fit in. Heading into the preseason, his stated goal was to simply continue building his name and score a touchdown. He just wanted a spot on the 53-man roster and the opportunity to try to hold onto it throughout the season.
Not only has he accomplished those goals, he’s performed so well he is now on a new mission, one that no one — not even Snead — could imagine possible back in August.
He wants to finish the season with 1,000 receiving yards.
“I just really wanted to surprise people and just shock people that this undrafted kid, first-year kid in the NFL, that nobody expected to do anything, gets 1,000 yards,” Snead said. “That’s my goal. I really want to do that. That’s my goal from here on out.”
It’s not even that big of a proclamation at this point. Considering Snead is sitting on 798 receiving yards with three games to play against opponents that rank 16th or lower in passing defense, it would probably be a bigger surprise if he failed to reach his goal than if he achieves it.
All Snead needs to do is average 67.3 yards per game to hit the mark. He currently averages 66.5 yards per game. If he simply keeps doing what he’s doing, he should be able to hit the mark.
It’s shocking to Snead to think back to where he was in August and where he is now, on the cusp of validating his place in the NFL by finishing with 1,000 yards. He never thought he’d be here, his goal within reach.
“I really couldn’t. I was just trying to be humble and find a place in this offense and contribute where I can,” Snead said. “But now that we’re three weeks out from the end of the year and I’m getting closer and closer — it just makes me a lot more hungry. I just want to finish the year strong and put my stamp on it.”
Whether he hits the mark or not, Snead has already put his stamp on the season. He should have no issue sticking with this team next season or worrying about what his future holds. He’s established himself as a key member of this team and it’s hard to imagine him not being a part of this organization in the future.
He’s easily the team’s most accomplished route runner and has also been impressive after the catch (270 yards), which has helped him make up for whatever he lacks in pure speed or athleticism.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about Snead’s performance this year is that he’s been able to succeed by running a variety of routes and has not specialized in one area like many young players.
Snead’s top route, in terms of receptions, has been curls (15 receptions on 21 targets for 159 yards), which he has often used to beat zone coverage (nine receptions). He’s been equally reliable running out routes (12 receptions, 18 targets, 126 yards), the majority of which have come at a depth of 8-12 yards (seven).
It’s not surprising Snead has done well when his route requires a sudden change in direction, but he’s also done well on deeper routes. He has five receptions for 155 yards on go routes, and has caught three passes on sluggos for 95 yards.
He’s truly been able to do a little bit of everything, and do it well. Snead attributes this to the work he puts in to master his routes, as well as his chemistry with quarterback Drew Brees.
“It’s starting to grow,” Snead said. “We spend a lot of time after practice communicating and talking about certain routes and different coverages. With me and Drew on the same page, it makes it a lot easier. He puts the ball where it needs to be.”
Now Snead is here, three weeks away from hitting a mark used by many to validate a player’s standing within the league. To even have a shot at getting there isn’t a bad deal for a kid from Ball State who couldn’t crack a 53-man roster last season.
“It means everything. It just makes me a lot more hungry to finish the year strong,” Snead said. “That’s my top goal right now and I’m just hoping I can reach that before the season is over.”
Even in a season that hasn’t gone as hoped, Snead’s emergence has meant just as much to the Saints.