Long, tough, explosive and consistent are some of the words that describe Saints wide receiver Marques Colston. Colston, an often overlooked talent among his peers because of his anti-diva persona, is one of the best players in the NFL, yet does not get as much pub as his teammates. Despite being two times the height of running back Darren Sproles and having three times the experience of tight end Jimmy Graham, he gets less attention, but Colston likes it that way. Unfortunately for him, that is set to change now.
Colston went to Hofstra University to play his college ball, where he set several receiving records. After concluding his college career, he declared for the 2006 NFL Draft. Scouts doubted Colston could translate to the next level, citing that he had played at a lower-level school and was a project tight end.
His 6-4, 225-pound frame was a strong selling point, but his 10-yard split, which was 1.60, was not. This meant he was not quick enough getting out of his cuts in comparison to the rest of the receivers in his draft class. Along with the concerns about a transition from a lower-level school, this knocked Colston down to the bottom of the draft, where he was finally selected by the Saints in the seventh round.
Despite the knocks, Colston made everyone pay once his rookie season came around. He played in 14 games as a late round draft choice for the Saints and went on to record 70 catches and over 1,000 yards. His progress continued the following year, where he racked up 98 receptions and over 1,200 yards receiving. The 168 total receptions set a record for most receptions in a pass catcher’s first two years.
But what made NFL Scouts overlook his talent? How was he so good so fast?
Despite a slow 10-yard split in comparison to his peers, Colston’s route-running ability enabled him to separate from defensive backs. Moreover, his great stature, soft hands, ability to line up on different areas on the field and field awareness are also contributing factors to his success.
Colston’s route-running ability shines every Sunday, as he sleekly gets out of his breaks and separates from defensive backs. This was seen earlier this week against New York Giants cornerback Corey Webster. The Saints offense asks Colston to run a lot of out-breaking routes and this week it was no different.
At the snap of the ball, Colston ate up the cushion that Webster gave and set his sights on running an Out route. As he closed the gap between him and the cornerback, he kept his eyes up and straight ahead. One of the issues that receivers have early in their careers is that they will give away their route by setting their eyes on their landmarks. However, Colston avoids this and plants his inside foot into the ground, sinks his hips and looks to drive off of it.
Once Colston sinks his hips and drives off of his inside foot, he is able to create separation from the defensive back and immediately turns his head around to look for the ball.
Earlier this season, the Saints played the Buccaneers, who had clearly seen a lot of Colston and knew what to expect: a lot of out-breaking routes. Because of this, the Bucs’ defensive backs, specifically cornerback Ronde Barber, attempted to jump these routes aggressively to force a turnover. However, the Saints and Colston were also prepared, so they came into the game with double-moves in mind.
Mid-way through the first quarter, the Saints called for a double-move from Colston. With the ball put into play by Drew Brees, Colston started developing his route. He started off with an aggressive vertical stem of about seven yards before planting his inside foot and then making a hard cut outside, which caused Buccaneers cornerback Barber to start attacking downhill.
However, while it looked like Colston was going to run an Out route, he actually ran an Out-and-Up, leaving Barber behind and catching a 38-yard pass for a touchdown.
Another way the Saints have used the multi-talented Colston is by aligning him in the slot position. By doing this, Colston presents a matchup nightmare against a linebacker and/or a safety. This was seen earlier this season against the Indianapolis Colts in a 62-7 drubbing victory.
The Saints came out with Colston to the right of Brees. Eventually, they motioned him back across the formation and to the right slot position. Once they did this, a Colts linebacker mirrored Colston’s path across the formation, signaling that it was man coverage.
With Colston in the slot, the Colts had many questions to answer. How were they going to cover him? Would they single cover or double him? If they single covered him, would the linebacker be able to execute his job? If they double covered him, would they be leaving an opening for another talented pass catcher?
At the snap, the Colts bracketed Colston with a linebacker underneath him and a safety above him. However, this didn’t work out so well because Colston avoided the jam by the linebacker, thus singling him up against the safety.
And another problem arose for the Colts: Colston was too big for the safety to deal with. Because of his stature, Colston was able to snatch the ball with his hands and get it at its highest point and come down with it for the touchdown.
Another instance of his quality talent is his field awareness. This is an underrated trait of wide receivers because many don’t pick up all the yards they can, instead losing sight of where they are on the field, thus stepping out of bounds. Colston’s ability was on display this week on his 50-yard catch on the aforementioned out route against Webster.
After acquiring the ball, Webster got his hands on Colston and nearly pushed him out of bounds. However, Colston knew that he had room to work with on the field, so he maintained his balance and tip-toed inside the sideline to stay alive for additional yards after the catch.
Colston’s anti-diva behavior and all the weapons around him have overshadowed his abilities on the field in the media despite continuing to be a matchup nightmare for defenses. His combination of size, soft hands, route running and versatility shines with every catch he makes. Colston’s abilities may be overlooked by the rest of the media, but here at TheScore and in the room of NFL coaches, we’re well aware of his talents.