White Sulphur Springs, W. Va. – There are no assurances for Willie Snead.
All the comparisons in the world can be made about him and former New Orleans Saints receiver Lance Moore, and not a single one of them will get him a spot on New Orleans' 53-man roster this year.
It doesn't matter whether the wistfulness is over the near-identical physical dimensions (Snead is 5 feet 11, 195 pounds and Moore is 5-9, 190), or the fawning is over Snead's suction-cup like hands that are reminiscent of Moore's own super-glue-ish mitts, or the dead ringer status even drops to the fact that each played in the Mid-American Conference (Snead at Ball State, Moore at Toledo) and was an undrafted free agent rookie with Cleveland (Snead in 2014, Moore in 2005) before joining the Saints.
Even deeper, neither will gape mouths with his speed in the 40-yard dash while, still, somehow managing always to appear open.
None of that guarantees anything for Snead, because Snead isn't Moore.
"(Snead is) someone that functions well in the slot," Saints Coach Sean Payton said. "I think he's a good route runner with strong hands, and he's smart. And those are traits that Lance had.
"(But) Lance played a ton of good football for us, so the jury is still out and he's still got a ways to go. But those are some things that you do see early on from (Snead)."
And Snead is doing everything he possibly can to jump-start his NFL career with the Saints, who will play the preseason opener Thursday in Baltimore against the Ravens.
He has been impossible to not notice during training camp at The Greenbrier, and was just as noticeable during OTAs. But the truth is, he turned heads in the organization long before that.
!(http://www.ticketexchangebyticketmaster.com/NFL/new-orleans-saints-tickets/?intcmp=tm108616&wt.mcid=NFLTEAMNOTRAININGCAMPARTINCLAD_300x250 "TM")After being waived by the Browns last year, Snead was signed to Carolina's practice squad in September, but released in November. Five weeks later, the Saints signed him to their practice squad and it didn't take long for him to impress.
"That's a tough guy," cornerback Keenan Lewis said. "I watched him last year – a lot of heart, comes out and competes every day, that's what's expected of a younger guy to come out and compete every day. It's not really shocking to me. We brought him in late in the season and that's what we saw, a blue collar worker who comes out and competes.
"He's tough. He reminds me of a guy like (former Panthers, current Ravens receiver) Steve Smith – not really big, but plays big. He's got a lot of heart, no matter where the ball is he's going to catch it, get up and be ready to roll the next play. He's a great blocker as well."
He's having to be a bit of everything – he's also trying to familiarize himself with fielding punts, something he never did in a game at Ball State – in order to stand apart in a crowded receiving corps.
"I feel like I have a good chance," Snead said. "I've been working pretty hard this training camp, I've been proving to the coaches that I can work hard and possibly make the roster. As long as I keep being consistent and showing I don't make the same mistakes twice, I should be OK.
"It's a healthy competition. Guys are battling every day, guys want to make the roster and we're all learning from each other. We talk about the mistakes we made in the receiving room, and coaches are being hard on us."
Coaches can't make conditions harder for Snead than they were for him during those five weeks when he wasn't with a team. It makes him all the more appreciative that the Saints saw in him a player they wanted to take a chance on.
"He is doing well," Payton said. "He knows what to do on every play and so now it is getting him in position, whether it is in the slot, to take advantage of some of his strengths.
"He lacks some top-end speed and yet he has some uncover skills. He has real good football awareness. Those are good things."
For Snead, they are the things that keep him around. He has no assurances, but is within range of creating a space.
"I'm just trying to learn every position right now, whether it's going deep or I'm in the slot," Snead said. "If they need me to stretch field I will, I feel like I have enough speed to get down the field."
Maybe, even, enough to run into a roster spot, and out of the shadow of a certain former Saints receiver.