While explaining Tre'Quan Smith's possible readiness to contribute, Coach Sean Payton gave the rookie receiver high praise in the form of a comparison.
"It was a little bit like (Marques) Colston in that, in the spring it was hard to see," Payton said.
Colston was a seventh-round pick in 2006, Payton's first draft as New Orleans Saints coach.
Colston struggled so mightily before training camp that consideration was given to the thought of not even bringing him to camp.
Colston went on to become the best receiver in franchise history, its all-time leader in receptions (711), receiving yards (9,759) and receiving touchdowns (72).
Now, that's not to say that Smith will BE the next Colston. The "Quiet Storm" earned his status as a franchise standard. But it is to state that after a somewhat pedestrian unveiling, like Colston, the third-round pick consistently began to show that he was equal to the challenge, whether the requirement was to produce the spectacular or the routine.
"(Smith) was just getting acclimated (in the spring), but I think he began to come on early in training camp," Payton said. "You see it often, when a player begins to know what to do, he can confidently go out and perform a little better. I think that happened with him."
Smith said that assessment is spot on.
"I came in here really not knowing," he said. "They just gave me a playbook: 'Here's what you've got to learn in order for you to play.' And I was a little slow in learning the playbook, a lot of mistakes, a lot of mental errors. But as time went on, I got more and more reps and I actually knew what I was doing, I got more and more comfortable. And like Coach Payton said, I began to play much faster.
"Another big thing is, when you know what you're doing, you're able to read the defense. So you can see what the defense is doing, what the defense is trying to scheme, (how the defense tries to) make it look like something else.
"But if you know what you're doing, you've got more time to look at everything else on the field. And that's just what I've been doing. Things began to slow down, so I don't have to pay more attention to what I have to do, because I already know 100 percent what I have to do. So it gives me more time to look at the defense, knowing how I'm going to run this route if they're in man-to-man, or how I'm going to run this route if they're in zone."
Smith ran his way right into the Saints' receiving rotation.
He's the only rookie in the room, but if his progress on summer assignments was any indication, he's ready for Sunday school – and Sunday night, Monday night and Thursday night.
"I'm definitely ready," Smith said. "Basically, this is what I've been waiting for. You want to get out there and start the regular season. Preseason was meant for you to get all the jitters out. All my jitters are out and I'm just prepared to play on Sunday."