METAIRIE, La. (AP) — Saints first-year receiver Willie Snead is flattered by comparisons to Lance Moore, even if they start with both players were undrafted, started out on practice squads and aren't known for their size or their speed.
But Moore was both productive and clutch with New Orleans — valued traits that Snead is now exhibiting with the Saints as New Orleans prepares to host Moore's current team, the Detroit Lions, on Monday night.
"It's a great comparison because he's a great player and I respect everything he's done in this organization and his career," Snead said after practice Thursday. "He's not the fastest guy. I'm not the fastest guy. But we can get open and we understand the game. We love the game and we play with a passion. We're going all out on every play, making plays when the offense needs them and keeping the chains moving."
Snead and Moore both played college football in the Mid-American Conference, Moore with Toledo and Snead with Ball State. After climbing to second in Ball State history with 2,991 yards receiving, Snead spent his first NFL training camp with Cleveland in 2014, but was released before the regular season. Moore also spent his first camp with the Browns.
Snead briefly latched on with Carolina's practice squad in 2014 before landing on the Saints' practice squad for most of last season. A standout training camp and preseason last summer gave Saints coaches little choice but to keep Snead on the active roster when the regular season began.
"I had to prove myself because nobody knew who I was or what I could bring to the table," Snead recalled. "I had to make sure to put the extra time in not just with practice but after practice and even before practice."
Some 13 games later, he's caught 52 passes for 798 yards and three touchdowns, putting him within reach of the 1,000-yard mark in his first full season.
Moore said he's noticed Snead and finds the comparison "fair," the main exception being that Moore often launches into flamboyant touchdown dances, while Snead's celebrations have been more understated so far.
"Obviously he is a young guy who came up the hard way, bounced around a little bit and found a place he is comfortable in and he is making plays," Moore said. "He is a guy that, kind of similarly to me, you bounce around and find somewhere that is kind of a nice niche for you and you show up and make plays on a daily basis and, obviously, in practice and show up on Sundays and on Mondays or whenever you are playing on film — and they have no choice but to play you."
When Moore was healthy, he was a key part of the Saints' offense, three times eclipsing 750 yards receiving in a season, going over 1,000 yards once and 900 yards twice. After missing most of the 2009 season, he returned for the playoffs and made several key contributions, including an acrobatic 2-point conversion in the Super Bowl.
Saints coach Sean Payton agreed similarities between Moore and Snead are apparent.
"He is kind of one of those guys that we'd say he started on first base and not necessarily on third base," Payton said. "He is similar with his football intelligence. He has naturally good hands and good zone awareness. There would be a lot of fair comparisons that you could draw with him as a player. I say that as a great compliment to Lance. For eight years here, all he did was get open and make plays."
And quarterback Drew Brees says Snead is showing signs of filling much the same role that Moore did, largely because of his intangibles, such as his versatility, work ethic and ability to read coverages in an offense that calls for adjustments to receivers' routes depending on a defense's formation.
"I had so much trust in Lance like that and Willie has a lot of those same attributes," Brees said. "I think that's why the comparison is made with Lance. Not only that, but certainly the journey to get here and how he's worked his way into a pretty significant role in the offense."