METAIRIE, La. — Two players expected to play big roles in what the Saints did offensively and defensively in 2013 are now finished for the year after sustaining season-ending injuries.
Receiver Joe Morgan, set to be an integral part in coach Sean Payton’s in just his third season, will have surgery today to repair a torn meniscus and a partially-torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.
Meanwhile, defensive end Kenyon Coleman, whom signed with the Saints in free agency, tore a pectoral muscle and is expected have surgery Thursday to repair. In describing the injury, Payton said “most likely that’ll be season-ending,” leaving the door open for a late-year return.
“Obviously they’re losses and we’ve got to find some guys that can step up and take their spot,” Payton said.
Second-year lineman Akiem Hicks took over first-team duties Wednesday for Coleman and has spent time working with the top unit during training camp.
“It stinks losing him,” right tackle Zach Strief said. “Good player, good teammate, good guy, a lot of knowledge. He’s helped me a lot in this camp just understanding how 3-4 guys play.”
Added Strief, who has blocked Coleman this preseason, “Losing any guy hurts but that’s the nature of the beast but somebody’s got to step up and someone’s going to get an opportunity to be successful like he was."
Morgan, though, may be tougher to replace.
Behind Marques Colston and Lance Moore, he was the only player with game experience as a Saints receiver in Payton’s system. New Orleans brought in six-year veteran Steve Breaston on Monday and three-year vet Preston Parker this spring.
But it’s rookie Kenny Stills who both quarterback Drew Brees and safety Malcolm Jenkins pointed as being in the best position to take advantage of the now-open spot.
“He’s playing very well,” Brees said. “He seems to be grasping the offense very well. You can tell at times his head is spinning a little bit because it’s a lot of information and a lot to think about at times.”
And Jenkins thinks no matter who is put it at receiver, the team will be all right.
“The biggest plus is that we have Drew Brees,” the safety said. “He makes a lot of guys look good.”
It’s a tough injury for Morgan, however.
He spent 2011 on injured reserve after tearing a meniscus following a bright preseason. He was arrested in May for DWI after Louisiana State Police found him in his car on the side of Earhart Expressway.
It’s what he has shown on the field when playing that also makes it tough. He broke onto the scene in 2012, playing in 14 games, making 10 catches for 379 yards and three touchdowns.
“His role was there,” Brees said. “Then all of a sudden that’s taken away. I know for a guy like him, a young player who has really had to fight through quite a bit the first two years of his career, then to all of a sudden have that established position and really you can start building the game plan around him at that point and all of a sudden he’s gone.”