Saints WR Morgan tries not to rest on big plays
METAIRIE, La. (AP)
Joseph Morgan won't let his latest long touchdown go to his head.
There have been too many hard lessons during the Saints receiver's first two training camps for him to fall into that trap.
''It's just one of those things where it's good to put something on film like that, but there's still a long way to go,'' said Morgan, who caught a 53-yard touchdown pass from Chase Daniel in New Orleans' preseason game against Jacksonville last Friday night. ''There's still a lot more I've got to do to even make this team.''
Morgan entered this preseason with higher expectations than one might typically see with an undrafted free agent out of an NAIA school. But he quickly got everyone's attention after entering Saints camp as a little known rookie out of Walsh University (in Canton, Ohio) in 2011.
In his NFL preseason debut, Walsh eluded numerous defenders on a 78-yard punt return for a score against San Francisco. He followed that up with a 56-yard TD reception in his second preseason game against Houston, the same team the Saints (No. 9 in the AP Pro 32) will meet in another exhibition contest this Saturday night.
But after scoring in his first two professional outings, Morgan had an MRI to check on right knee pain and it revealed a torn meniscus that required surgery.
Given his youth and the depth the Saints already had at receiver last season, the club placed Morgan on injured reserve, ending his chances of becoming a surprise addition to the regular season roster.
''That's one of those things where you go from being an undrafted guy to almost making the team. I mean, everybody was telling me my opportunity presented itself very well to make the team, and then just to get some random injury out of the blue, I was kind of upset,'' Morgan said. ''Now I look at it as a blessing in disguise because I got an opportunity to sit down and really learn the playbook and learn from the older guys.''
This season, the Saints have asked Morgan to take snaps at all receiver positions, rather than the one wideout spot (to the outside of the slot receiver) that he played last year.
However, Morgan struggled at times with dropped passes and punts during 2012 training camp, and he did little to make a major impression in the Saints' first two preseason games. He caught three of six passes thrown his way for 35 yards and muffed a punt return in the Saints' preseason opener against Arizona.
He had one catch for 7 yards in New Orleans' second preseason game at New England, where he also totaled 8 return yards on three punts.
Against the Jaguars, though, what Daniel refers to as Morgan's ''world-class speed'' was on display during his long touchdown reception from the Saints' backup QB. One safety hesitated on a play-action fake and Morgan ran right by the other safety.
He ended the game having caught all three passes thrown his way for a team-high 68 yards.
''It's a growth process,'' assistant head coach Joe Vitt said of Morgan. ''The longer he plays in the game and the longer he practices with us and becomes a part of our system, he is going to learn the most important play is the next one.''
Saints starting quarterback Drew Brees said he was not surprised to see Morgan struggling with consistency, given his inexperience and the additional roles the Saints are asking him to try now.
''He is one of those guys that you put him on the field on game day and he can kind of open your eyes and (make you) say `Wow, who is this guy?''' Brees said. ''He has this raw talent and now he just needs to cultivate that. ... He is still learning how to be a professional and how to handle tough situations. ... Now, he has a few different things to think about, and at times, when you first put a guy in that position, they are probably thinking a little bit too much and it affects their play-making ability.''
Morgan said he also fell victim, initially, to thinking too much about his place on the depth chart, particularly after Robert Meachem's departure in free agency.
''Of course I've thought about it because of the loss of Meachem and everybody saying we were all vying for his fourth receiver spot,'' Morgan said. ''That's one of those things you think about, but now I look at it as I'm still an undrafted guy, basically still like my rookie year, and that I've got a lot to prove. So I've got to get my foot in the door first.''
Notes: LB Curtis Lofton, who sprained his ankle against Jacksonville last Friday night, said he is all but certain he will be able to play in New Orleans' regular season opener against Washington on Sept. 9. On Tuesday, he was walking around the locker room without a limp or any kind of wrap to give away which ankle he hurt (he and coaches have not said which). ''I'm feeling good. Just doing what I'm told. Just taking care of it. It's still preseason, so it's still early,'' Lofton said. ''But once Week 1 rolls around, I'll be ready to go.'' Lofton said he was hurt on the fifth play of the game and played about 25 more snaps. ... LB Barrett Ruud, acquired from Seattle in exchange for a future draft choice on Monday night, arrived at Saints headquarters Tuesday for his physical, which he passed. He did not practice and was not available to speak with reporters. ... CB Marquis Johnson was rested because of knee swelling. ... RB Darren Sproles (knee) and DE Turk McBride (ankle) both were in uniform during practice and participated in non-contact individual drills.