Head coach Sean Payton expects Fleener to improve in his second year with the Saints, NOLA.com's Larry Holder reports. Signed to a five-year, $36 million contract last offseason, Fleener ultimately struggled with the same kind of inconsistency that plagued him throughout his four-year stint in Indianapolis. His mark of 12.6 yards per reception was strong for his position, but he only scored four total touchdowns while catching 50 of 82 targets (61 percent), which is far below expectations for the top tight end in a Drew Brees offense. Perhaps most discouraging, Fleener was a total non-factor toward the end of the season, catching eight passes for 84 yards over the final four weeks. It's reasonable to expect some improvement in his second year in the New Orleans attack, but Fleener has never been particularly efficient on a per-target basis, despite benefiting from strong quarterback play throughout his career.
Fleener caught three of eight targets for 38 yards in Sunday's loss to the Falcons. When Fleener came to New Orleans this off season the idea was that the vertical threat could do a respectable Jimmy Graham impression and thrive while no longer having to compete with Dwayne Allen. It's seldom worked out that way, however. Fleener has pulled in 11 catches of 20 or more yards, but they've helped him top 75 yards receiving just twice all year. He faltered the most down the stretch, recording just eight catches and 84 yards combined during the season's final four games.
Fleener notched two catches on three targets for 30 yards in Saturday's 31-24 win over the Bucs. The veteran tight end turned in another modest outing, as Brandin Cooks and Michael Thomas led the way for the Saints' pass catchers on the afternoon. Fleener has now seen three targets in three straight games, and has only five catches over that span. He's failed to score since Week 11 against the Panthers as well, making him an uninspiring option in Week 17 against the Falcons.
Fleener caught two of three targets for 10 yards in Sunday's win over Arizona. Passes were flying all over the place on Sunday, but for the second consecutive week Fleener was often on the outside looking in on the action. The free-agent acquisition has stretched the field at times for the Saints, but has been held under 50 yards receiving in seven out of his last nine outings. Though he's been targeted in the red zone 12 times during that span, he's come away with just one score.
Fleener caught one pass on three targets for six yards in Sunday's loss to the Buccaneers. Just when owners thought they could start trusting the athletic tight end, Fleener lays an egg at the worst possible time. With Josh Hill out for the rest of the season, Fleener should continue to see ample playing time, but inconsistency has been his bugaboo in a forgettable first season in New Orleans. Things likely will not get easier in Week 15 against an Arizona defense that has stymied tight ends all season.
|* indicates player did not play that week|
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