NEW ORLEANS -- If Joe Morgan was falling behind in the battle for a roster spot at wide receiver, he made up for it in a hurry on Friday night.
The New Orleans Saints' dynamic speedster caught three passes for 108 yards -- including gains of 52 and 44 -- during a 31-24 victory over the Tennessee Titans. Most importantly, Morgan showed that he is recovering from a major knee injury last summer that sidelined him for almost a full year.
“It was encouraging that he got behind the defense and was able to make a few plays that we’ve seen him make prior to his injury,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “I think more than anything, what is important for us in the evaluation process is how he is moving. And tonight we saw him do a few things that were encouraging.
“Without having looked at the tape, I think it was a real significant step for him in the right direction. The type of injury he had was pretty significant.”
Morgan suffered a torn ACL and other unspecified complications that required two surgeries. But he has been on a steady mend all summer, doing rehab work off to the side during OTAs before returning to practices in training camp.
“With any rehab process, you’re not going to go just from zero to 100 in the blink of an eye,” Morgan said. “It’s been a long process but right now I feel great. Still trying to climb the ladder, still trying to get stronger. …
“The hardest thing to do is make a team in the training room. The less time you spend in the training room, the better your chances to make the team.”
Morgan said he’s not feeling any additional pressure to make the team this year because he said he has felt pressure every summer since he first arrived as an undrafted free agent out of Walsh in 2011.
The 6-foot-1, 184-pounder finally established himself as both a monster deep threat and a reliable blocker during the 2012 season, when he caught 10 passes for 379 yards and three touchdowns -- an astounding 37.9 yards per catch. But then he suffered the knee injury during last year’s camp.
That blocking ability shouldn’t be overlooked. Morgan is more physical than his speed indicates, and Payton stressed Friday night that the team doesn’t see him as a “one-trick pony.”
Morgan is in a dogfight, though for the fourth and fifth roster spots with Nick Toon and veteran Robert Meachem (also known for his combination of excellent blocking and deep speed). It’s hard to imagine the Saints will keep all three of them, since they typically keep only four receivers active on game days. But it’s also hard to imagine any of the three getting cut just yet.