Last season, former New Orleans Saints wide receiver Lance Moore had what could only really be described as a down year by his standards. He recorded under 500 receiving yards and just two touchdowns, which is something that he hadn’t done since 2009, when ankle and hamstring injuries limited him to just seven games.
Injuries again played a major part in his down season in 2013, but so too did the emergence of rookie wide receiver Kenny Stills in the Saints offense. The two factors conspired to limit Moore to less than 500 snaps during the regular season, notching five starts in his 13 games played.
Stills, meanwhile, caught 32 passes for 641 yards with a knack for the big play, as he averaged 20 yards per catch. All five of his touchdown catches came from at least 34 yards out, with three of them over 50 yards.
As a result, he and Drew Brees combined for by far the best passer rating for a tandem with an immaculate 139.3 rating in 46 targets. Next best was Eddie Royal at 127.4.
Jerricho Cotchery had the best pairing with Ben Roethlisberger for the Pittsburgh Steelers, combining for a passer rating of 110.8, 13th in the league, in large part due to his 10 touchdowns. Antonio Brown was 19th with a passer rating of 106.5.
Moore, meanwhile, had a respectable 94.8 rating with Brees, as the pairing also resulted in two interceptions. The runaway success that Stills had pairing with Brees, however, makes it no surprise that Moore’s snaps dwindled as the season progressed. By season’s end, he averaged just 47 percent of the team’s offensive snaps in the games he played, while Stills accounted for greater than 60 percent.
While Stills’ influence had a lot to do with diminished playing time, however, Moore’s injury, which he suffered in Week Three, lingered much longer than just the three games that he missed. According to Scott Brown of ESPN, the broken hand also had a “lingering psychological effect on him”:
It was more of a confidence thing and a mental thing, getting over a broken bone and that feeling of being able to just be consistent, catching the ball, blocking, getting tackled and stuff like that. It took a little longer than that three-to-four week period but it feels good now and I am ready to go.
He recorded 40 or more receiving yards in a game only once in his first six games back from the hand injury. We saw last season the lingering effects such an injury could have on a wide receiver, as multiple finger injuries virtually knocked out Markus Wheaton’s rookie season.
He is positioned to take over a starting job in his second year despite having just six catches last year in large part due to the time missed with injury. He required surgery on his hand after the season was over to get it corrected for good.
Even though Moore’s actual numbers weren’t bad by any means (he caught 37 of 52 passes for a catch rate of over 70 percent), they are fairly pedestrian for the Saints’ offense, and considering his success in recent years.
His hand injury should be behind him now, however. And, frankly, if there’s a Kenny Stills usurping his playing time, then that would only be a good thing for the team as a whole.