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New Orleans Saints receiver Chris Olave taking the next step in his quest to become the best

"I'm just trying to come down with every target thrown my way"


It likely was more of a "trust" play than anything else, when New Orleans Saints quarterback Derek Carr moved a bit in the pocket a couple of weeks ago, saw the coverage downfield and still decided to launch a pass toward the goal line in the hopes that receiver Chris Olave would come down with it over a defender.

It's the offseason and if the result of a gamble like that is going to be a turnover, then the offseason is the preferable circumstance.

Except Olave had no intention of seeing a turnover.

He outleaped safety Marcus Maye for the ball, clamped it and came down for the score. It's just one of the facets of the game that Olave, one of the NFL's standout offensive rookies in 2022, has been working to improve.

"Just been working on some of my weaknesses, trying to be stronger at the catch, just being stronger after contact," Olave said. "And trying to work on my (yards after catch).

"I'm just trying to come down with every target thrown my way. I feel like last year, I kind of struggled with that and I just want to keep getting better every year."

By all accounts, Olave was New Orleans' best receiver in his debut season, finishing with 72 catches for 1,042 yards and four touchdowns in 15 games. The smooth route runner basically had to assume the lead role and blossomed into the Saints' most reliable threat, after veteran receivers Michael Thomas and Jarvis Landry were sidelined for most of the season with toe and ankle injuries, respectively.

But with the '23 season fast approaching, Olave envisions a balanced offense that can be explosive.

"There's no answer to (how explosive the offense can be)," he said. "I mean, we've got so many explosive players, we've got a great quarterback and we've got A.K (running back Alvin Kamara). So I feel like only we can hold ourselves back."

In addition to Kamara, the Saints will have Rashid Shaheed (28 catches for 488 yards and two touchdowns, four carries for 57 yards and a touchdown) at receiver, Juwan Johnson (42 catches for 508 yards and a team-leading seven touchdowns) at tight end, and Taysom Hill (nine catches for 77 yards and two touchdowns, 96 carries for 575 yards and seven rushing touchdowns, and 13 for 19 passing for 240 yards and two touchdowns) at tight end and quarterback.

Plus, Thomas, who has been sidelined for 40 of the last 50 games due to ankle and toe injuries, is working toward his return.

"That's something I can't really control," Olave said of the possible return of Thomas, the NFL's Offensive Player of the Year in 2019. "I know Mike is doing his best to be out there, he wants to be out there. But I'm trying to be the best at what I do, so I'm looking at that right now, whether Mike is out there or not. When Mike is out there he's one of the best, too, so I feel like that can add a lot to the team."

Adding Carr helps, too. The 10-year veteran signed as an unrestricted free agent after becoming the Raiders' all-time franchise leader in passing yards and touchdowns.

"He adds a lot," Carr said. "Just a leader. I feel like it's going to be a whole different year. Derek is a great guy on and off the field, and he's easy to talk to. And we already know what he can do on the field, so the sky is the limit."

New Orleans' best chance to reach that limit is for Olave to improve on his standout rookie season. And that's exactly what he intends to do.

"I want to be the best," he said. "That's always been my mindset, I just want to be the best. I try to do that every day, stay consistent with my work and do everything I can to be at my best. That's my goal."

New Orleans players participate in Day 1 of 2023 Minicamp at the Ochsner Sports Performance Center on Tuesday, June 13, 2023.

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