Tre'Quan Smith and Cameron Meredith appear to be rounding into form in the New Orleans Saints offense, and not a moment too soon.
With Ted Ginn Jr., who entered the season as the Saints' second-most productive returning receiver from 2017, having been placed on injured reserve Thursday with a knee injury, Smith, the Saints' third-round draft pick, and Meredith, a key pickup as a restricted free agent signee from Chicago, figure to see their opportunities increase.
And they already have been prepped for the occasion.
Ginn was inactive for the last game, before being placed on IR. Coach Sean Payton said Friday that the arthroscopic procedure Ginn underwent shouldn't sideline him for the rest of the season.
Smith and Meredith responded to the heavier workloads against Washington with their most productive games of the season. Smith caught three passes for 111 yards and two touchdowns, including a 62-yard score that pushed Drew Brees to the top of the list for career passing yards in NFL history, and Meredith caught all five passes thrown his way for 71 yards.
The distribution is in line with what Coach Sean Payton said would happen even as Michael Thomas (46 catches for 519 yards and three touchdowns) was gobbling up receptions at an NFL record pace, and aligned with the beliefs that Smith and Meredith have in themselves.
"I feel very comfortable, knowing my role has been extended," said Smith, who has four catches for 129 yards this season. "I feel like I've been doing my job and taking full advantage of every opportunity, so I feel real good about my role in this offense.
"(The Washington game) is definitely a confidence-booster, but all along I believed in myself. I feel like it boosted more confidence in my teammates' trust in me. Now, I feel like my teammates believe in me much more."
"I think as a whole, we've got so many weapons on the outside, in the run game, our quarterback's a legend," said Meredith, who has nine catches for 114 yards and a touchdown. He was inactive the first two games.
"All those things play a part in each individual," Meredith said. "Just growing in the offense, picking up every little detail – all that stuff is going to help me develop into all that I can in this offense.
"I knew I was capable of doing those things. I'm always capable of doing those things. It's just a matter of going out there at the right time, being smart and just making the plays."
Ginn's absence now places a higher emphasis on Smith and Meredith.
"That's this game," Meredith said. "When somebody goes down, you have to be ready to step up. He played a big part in this offense, so it's up to this group, in this room, to go out there and put some plays together and be reliable just like if Ted was here. We're going to go out there, me and Tre have a little bit more on our hands. So having that extra responsibility is going to help us."
"It's always being ready at any time," Smith said. "When Ted went down, it wasn't expected but you've always got to be ready. In that game, the ball was being distributed to everybody, everybody got touches and it just so happened that me and Cam had a pretty productive game."
Smith best may be able to replicate the speed that Ginn added to the Saints' offense.
"I love to run, especially deep balls," he said. "Being in this game and in this offense, you've got to know what your role is and my coaches tell me I'm a speed guy. I've got to stretch the field all the time."
And Meredith is multifaceted, able to line up in a variety of receiver spots.
"That's my game," he said. "I feel like I play comfortable in any position. I love to move around, get mismatches, but whatever coaches need me to do and where they feel like I'm going to be successful, that's what we do. But anywhere on the field, I feel comfortable."