Cooks: Young Saints wideouts 'gonna do big things'

For the entirety of his time in New Orleans, Drew Brees has had a bevy of productive pass catchers. He won a Super Bowl with Marques Colston, Robert Meachem and Jeremy Shockey and turned Jimmy Graham into a Pro Bowl tight end.

However, this year's Saints offense doesn't boast the same assured set of wideouts. Yes, Brandin Cooks (84 rec, 1,138 yds, 9 TDs) remains the apple of Brees' eye, but behind him on the depth chart, there are a lot of question marks.

Michael Thomas, a rookie from Ohio State, second-year wideout Willie Snead, third-year receiver Brandon Coleman and veteran Hakeem Nicks are all battling for the second spot on New Orleans' flanks. Save for Nicks, it's a young bunch in the Big Easy -- their average age is 22.75 -- but the unit isn't threatened by the expectations of playing under Brees.

"We are young, yes. But this game, you can't let your youth hold you back from being great," Cooks told's Mike Triplett. "And that's the way I think about it, and that's the way we all feel about it in that room.

"We might be young, but darn it, we're gonna make great plays and we're gonna do big things. And we're not gonna wait until our fifth, sixth year, we're gonna do it now."

Cooks is right; this wide receiver room does not have the luxury of waiting to develop into a potent force akin to the 2009 or 2011 Saints. Brees' future with the franchise is uncertain as he enters the final year of a five-year deal; he and the front office haven't talked extension in three months.

Brees led the league in passing yards in 2015, but will no longer have Colston (45 receptions) and tight end Benjamin Watson (74) at his disposal. With nearly 120 catches up for grabs in New Orleans, it's up to Cooks and the rising receiver room to earn them, and convince their quarterback they are worth sticking around for.

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