Meachem's opener encouraging

The New Orleans Saints were already impressed with Robert Meachem's offseason. But he gave the Saints more reason for optimism after his sterling performance against Arizona in the preseason opener.

Wide receiver Robert Meachem, a second-year pro, was already having a solid training camp when the Saints faced the Cardinals in their preseason opener. He continued his resurgence by catching four passes for 129 yards and a touchdown.

After being inactive for all 16 regular-season games last season, a byproduct of a camp that went wrong from the beginning because of ankle and knee injuries, Meachem gave the Saints' coaches and their fans a glimpse of his ability in the 24-10 win, even if it was against the Cardinals' second-team defense.

The first big highlight for the 27th overall pick of the 2007 NFL Draft came when he ran down what appeared to be an overthrow by backup quarterback Mark Brunell and turned it into a 49-yard gain. Then, he caught a short pass from third-stringer Tyler Palko and turned it into a 60-yard touchdown after breaking three tackles.

"It was real encouraging," coach Sean Payton said of Meachem's play. "For a young player, you receive more confidence when you play like that.

"He came up big with the post route that he dove and caught, and later on he turned that crossing route into a touchdown. Those are all positive signs. He played very well, that was encouraging."

While it was encouraging for the coaching staff, it meant a whole lot more to Meachem -- a 6-foot-2, 210-pound speedster.

"It felt good because I haven't played in a whole year," Meachem said. "Everybody kept saying, 'Keep working hard, keep fighting and your time will come.' I had a few big plays."

While he was happy to get his feet wet, Meachem, who is bidding to become the Saints' third receiver behind starters Marques Colston and David Patten, was reminded of how far he has come -- and how far he has to go -- by wide receivers coach Curtis Johnson.

"It was a relief. But then again, after I got back to the sideline, coach C.J. said, 'You should have been doing that anyway,'" Meachem said. "He tries to keep us humble so we won't get too arrogant or too cocky. I respect him for that because at that moment, I could have gotten real arrogant and real cocky. It's better just to stay humble and keep working."

But at least he's on the field.

"He's further along with an understanding of what we're doing," Payton said. "He's made some plays."

"Robert has some a long way from last year as a rookie," said quarterback Drew Brees. "I just see the confidence in him by the way he plays and the way he practices.

"It's one more year into the offense and his knowledge is at another level in addition to him being healthy. He was going through that knee (injury) last year and was never quite 100 percent. Now you can really see him start to blossom."

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