METAIRIE, La. — Ted Ginn Jr.’s debut with the New Orleans Saints wasn’t exactly awe-inspiring. Two targets, zero catches and one dropped pass in the end zone before the starters called it an early night in a 20-14 loss to the Cleveland Browns on Thursday.
The drop was a little disconcerting, since that is a problem that has plagued Ginn throughout his 10-year NFL career.
But coach Sean Payton was quick to insist Friday that Ginn has done enough good things this summer after signing a three-year, $11 million contract to forgive the occasional misplay.
“Listen, I’m comfortable with the player. And he’s gonna make more big plays than not,” Payton said of the 32-year-old Ginn, who is known more for his elite speed than any negative trait. “And I like his focus, and I like the way he approaches the game. He’s one of those guys that, look, if you run the ball 35 times and throw it a handful … it doesn’t matter. He just wants to win. And I think that’s just a little contagious in that room …
“[His performance] has been solid. It’s been good. Here’s the thing, you’re always wantin’ to see the player still run, and I’ve seen that. So I think he’s doin’ well.”
In other words, don’t assume that Ginn’s roster spot is in jeopardy just because he put up an 0-fer in the first exhibition while fellow speedster Tommylee Lewis racked up 10 catches for 124 yards and a touchdown with the backup units.
Yes, dropped passes have been a drag on Ginn’s career since he was drafted in the first round by the Miami Dolphins in 2007.
He has 40 career drops, according to ESPN Stats & Information, including 13 over the past two seasons. His career drop rate of 6.9 percent is the highest of any receiver with at least 420 targets over the past 10 years. And his matching drop rate of 6.9 percent over the past two years is the highest of any receiver with at least 140 targets.
But if Ginn were a perfect receiver, he wouldn’t have been available at $3.33 million per year.
And the 5-foot-11, 180-pounder has indeed made “more big plays than not,” particularly over the past two seasons with the Carolina Panthers.
Ginn had the best two-year stretch of his career in Carolina, with a total of 98 catches for 1,491 yards and 14 touchdowns, including catches of 44, 45 and 40 yards against the Saints.
He still seems like an ideal fit to replace Brandin Cooks as a deep vertical threat defenses have to account for — similar to the role that Devery Henderson, Robert Meachem and Kenny Stills played in years past.
But he’ll need a little more stickum on those hands to make absolutely sure he sticks in the role.