METAIRIE, La. — Joe Morgan simply walked into the cafeteria at the Saints training facility in Metairie after New Orleans’ win over Tampa Bay in October, unaware of just how spectacular his 48-yard touchdown catch was to watch.
It didn’t take him long to figure it out.
Playing on the TVs in the common area was ESPN and, at that moment, the World Wide Leader’s Sports Science segment. And on that segment, Morgan finally saw it – the play in which he shook two Bucs defenders, somehow stayed on his feet and waltzed into the end zone.
“It took me by surprise to actually see myself on that crazy show,” Morgan said.
Safe to say, Morgan has taken many people by surprise this year.
He has seven catches for an astounding 44.3 yard average. Take away his first reception of the season – a five-yard catch at Carolina on Sept. 16 – and his average jumps to 50 yards per.
While he doesn’t qualify for any official stats because of the limited amount of receptions, ProFootballReference.com says his per catch average is highest for any player with at least seven catches in a single season. It’s a ridiculous statistic in spite of the limited touches.
Or, as Morgan said, “That’s unbelievable.”
Morgan isn’t a player talked about openly as being in the Saints’ future plans. But he’s making it hard for the team to keep him on the bench.
When Robert Meachem signed as a free agent in San Diego, he opened a spot for a player with a speed skill set to step in. Morgan fits the mold, even at 6-foot-1, 184 pounds, and even as an undrafted free agent out of a Walsh College.
He said the team has been utilizing him by letting him run a fair amount of the same offensive sets that Meachem ran in the past. And while he’s still trying to build the confidence of the coaches and quarterback Drew Brees, he’s likely doing a better job of that than he realizes.
“What I see, more than anything, is just a confidence level,” Brees said. “The more that we give him, the more that he embraces it. The more that I see him coming out of the huddle, he’s decisive. He’s confident. He knows where to line up, he knows the ball can come to him at any moment, and so you feel that sense of urgency.”
Added interim coach Joe Vitt, “I think there are some hidden things that he’s done in games right now that people don’t see. He’s really become a heck of a blocker. I think you attribute how we get better in the running game to some of the blocks he’s made.”
Morgan was a standout in 2011 during his first NFL training camp, turning heads with a 56-yard touchdown catch and a 78-yard punt return for a score. But he was placed on injured reserve with a meniscus injury and never saw the active list during the regular season.
He has slowly worked his way into the lineup this season and he’s still trying to learn the position at the NFL level. But that’s where he has an advantage – he works with Lance Moore, one of the league’s best route runners on a daily basis.
“When Lance comes in on the off days, I come in and work out with Lance,” Morgan said. “If there’s something little in my routes that I need to question about, I’ll ask Lance. Same with all the receivers, but he’s probably one of the main guys I look up to and ask a lot of questions.”
But while he’s content with his role right now, he still wants more and has taken what a former NFL standout receiver told the receivers group in the preseason.
“When Isaac Bruce came in and talked to us, he told don’t be a JAG, don’t be just another guy,” Morgan said. “So I don’t want to be just another guy out there just being a part of the team. I actually want to contribute.”