By Nick Shook
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Michael Thomas has been the talk of New Orleans since training camp, and on Sunday, he arrived.
Thomas recorded his first multi-touchdown of his young professional career in a win over the 49ers in Week 9, including a stunning catch in the back corner of the end zone that dropped the jaws of many. Just not that of his uncle, former NFL star Keyshawn Johnson.
“Ummm, ‘Good concentration.’ … Just, ‘Oh, OK, he made the catch,’ ” Johnson said of his reaction to the catch, via ESPN.
Considering his own illustrious career, Johnson understandably has high expectations. But they’re more rooted in how familiar he is with Thomas, who he knows has the skills to be a big-time receiver, even if he wasn’t always afforded the chance to show them at Ohio State.
“No, he hasn’t really,” Johnson said of Thomas exceeding his expectations. “I mean, I expected for him to play solid. Knowing the offense, knowing what Sean [Payton] and the system and Drew Brees had to offer, and knowing he’s coming from a college system that didn’t allow him to showcase his skill set sometimes because of the system they elect to run.”
Johnson and Payton are familiar from Johnson’s time in Dallas, playing receiver in Payton’s offense, so he understands a thing or two about the possibilities of the pairing. It’s paid off quite well through nine weeks, with Thomas on pace to break 1,100 receiving yards and 10 receiving touchdowns in his rookie campaign. The Saints will need him to continue improving as they hope to close the gap with NFC South-leading Atlanta in the coming weeks.
And while a continued upward trend would grab more attention as the weeks continue, Johnson will remain unsurprised, because he saw this coming since he recommended his nephew to his old offensive coordinator.
“I’m glad he’s with the right person in Sean Payton, who knows what to do with him,” added Johnson.