Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Olev eager to team up with Thomas in Saints’ rebuild pass game

METAIRIE, La. ( Associated Press) – Chris Olev has just arrived in New Orleans. Michael Thomas will return soon.

The two former Ohio State stars are central figures in a revamped Saints game designed to improve the NFL’s least productive passing game with 187.4 yards per game in 2021.

The Saints’ top draft choice and number 11 overall, Olev caught 65 passes for 936 yards — 14.4 yards per catch — and 13 touchdowns for the Buckeyes last season. He’s getting his first taste of the NFL while attending a rookie minicamp in New Orleans this weekend.

But before he showed up at the team’s training facility, he spent a week and a half in Los Angeles working with Thomas, a former All-Pro who invited his new teammate to stay with him.

“I’m training there until I get here,” Olev said after practice on Saturday. “He took me in. I just followed his schedule which he consistently does in the off season. I just stepped in and worked with him.

“He said, just keep doing what I’m doing. Coming from Ohio State, it’s a competitive environment. Put that chip on your shoulder and keep working with your head down. I look at him. He He is one of the best receivers to do that and I want to follow in his footsteps.”

The Saints’ passing game has struggled over the past two seasons, largely due to an ankle injury that has plagued Thomas, a second-round pick in 2016, who caught an NFL-record 149 passes in 2019, last season. He was completely healthy.

Thomas injured an ankle in the 2020 season opener and it limited him to seven games that season. He didn’t catch a single touchdown pass.

He tried to re-heal the injury, but eventually had two surgeries and all but missed last season.

It remains to be seen whether Thomas will participate in voluntary organized team activities starting in nine days, but the two former Buckeyes are expected to be together again for the team’s mandatory veteran minicamp scheduled for June 14-16.

“Ultimately being on the same team with him is going to be huge,” Olev said. “I can’t wait to get on the field with him and compete with him as my partner.”

Olev, who, like Thomas, is a native of Southern California, said he and Thomas spoke on the phone and exchanged texts even before the draft. Thomas was mentoring his teammate Bucke and communication has grown since becoming a teammate only two weeks ago.

“Ever since I drafted, I think we’ve come close,” Olev said.

The Saints added five-time Pro Bowl receiver Jarvis Landry, who hails from the New Orleans area and played at nearby LSU as a free agent on Friday.

“We just got out of practice (Friday) and they said, ‘We got Jarvis’ and it was huge,” Olev said. “He’s going to be a great addition to the roster. I can’t wait to play with him.”

“Michael Thomas was always one of my favorite receivers. Jarvis is a legend here. To have so many people who are known in the league and have already made their mark, it’s a big deal for me that they are on it every day How do you attack?

Olev is just two days into his NFL career, but coach Dennis Allen said he “saw the same things we saw on tape” which led the Saints to take two trades to the No. 11 spot and draft him. inspired.

“He’s a guy who’s really fast, easy to transition, good route runner, smart and ultimately he’s the type of character person we wanted to bring into the building,” Allen said. “I think it’s as important as anything.”


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