Olaf eager to work with Thomas in Saints rebuilding passing game

METERY, La. (AP) — Chris Olaf just arrived in New Orleans. Michael Thomas will be back soon.

Two former Ohio State stars are at the heart of a rebuilt Saints receiving team that aims to improve the NFL’s least efficient passing game in 2021, averaging 187.4 yards per game.

Olaf, the Saints’ top pick and No. 11 overall, had 65 catches for 936 yards (14.4 yards per catch) and 13 touchdowns for the Buckeyes. He got his first taste of the NFL when he attended this weekend’s rookie minicamp in New Orleans.

But before he showed up at the team’s practice facility, he worked with Thomas in Los Angeles for a week and a half, and the former All-Star invited his new teammates to stay with him.

“I was training there until I got here,” Olaf said after training on Saturday. “He took me in. I just followed his usual offseason schedule. I just stepped in and worked with him.

“He said, keep doing what I’m doing. Coming from Ohio State, it’s a competitive environment. Put the chips on your shoulders, keep your head down and keep working. I look up to him. He’s the best pick One of the players and I want to follow in his footsteps.”

The Saints’ passing game has been underwhelming for the past two seasons, largely because an ankle injury has plagued Thomas, a second-round pick in 2016 who had an NFL-record 149 passes in 2019 , he was completely healthy last season.

Thomas suffered an ankle injury in the 2020 season opener, which limited him to just seven games that season. He didn’t catch a touchdown pass.

He tried to recover from the injury but ended up having two surgeries and missing the entire season.

It remains to be seen whether Thomas will participate in the voluntary team event that begins in nine days, but the two former Buckeyes are expected to get together again for the team’s mandatory discharge scheduled for June 14-16. Military mini-camp.

“It would be huge to end up on the same team with him,” Olaf said. “I can’t wait to play with him and compete with him as his teammate.”

Olaf, a Southern California native like Thomas, said he and Thomas spoke on the phone and exchanged text messages before the draft. Thomas is advising his Buckeye companions, and the exchanges have only increased since they became teammates two weeks ago.

“Since I was drafted, I feel like we are getting closer,” Olaf said.

The Saints added five-time Pro Bowl receiver Jarvis Landry, who is from the New Orleans area and plays at nearby LSU, in free agency Friday.

“We just finished training (Friday) and they said, ‘We got Jarvis,’ which was fantastic,” Olaf said. “He’s going to be a great addition to the roster. I can’t wait to play with him.

“Michael Thomas has always been one of my favorite receivers. Jarvis is a legend here. It means a lot to me to have so many well-known players and have already made their mark on the league , because I see how they attack every day.”

Olaf is only two days into his NFL career, but coach Dennis Allen says he’s seen “the same thing we saw on tape,” which led to the Saints making two trades to advance to 11th and pick him.

“He’s a really quick, smooth transition, a great course runner, a smart guy, and ultimately he’s the kind of character we want to bring into the building,” Allen said. “I think it’s the same as anything. important.”

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