Among the several things (both good and bad) that stood out for me at this past Friday night’s Saints-Titans tilt at the Superdome was the outstanding performance of 4th year WR Joe Morgan (a.k.a. “Jo-Mo”). In fact, his play stood out so much to me that I Tweeted THIS near the end of the 3rd Quarter as I watched his display of talent for the first time in 2014:
Morgan led the Saints with 108 yards on three catches (an eye-popping average of 36 yards per grab) in what was actually his first NFL game at the Superdome since 2012. For me and all of the others in attendance, it was a clear illustration of just how far Morgan has come in what has been a crazy last year. He’s had legal issues (a DWI), suffered a near career-threatening injury (a torn ACL), and endured criticism from observers that felt he wouldn’t ever be a dependable part of the Saints offensive weaponry as he tries to reclaim his status as a the “homerun hitter” deep ball threat for the Saints.
With wide receivers Kenny Stills (quad) and Marques Colston (undisclosed) ruled out before the game, Morgan made the most of his opportunity and drew the attention of back-up QB’s Luke McCown and Ryan Griffin — whom both are competing for the number #2 spot behind Drew Brees (also ruled out with a strained oblique).
Jo-Mo flew by Titans cornerback Coty Sensabaugh and made a MAGNIFICENT catch (reminiscent of his highlight reel, circus-like grab at Tampa Bay a few years ago) of a 45-yard throw from Griffin. Morgan got back on his feet and gained an extra seven yards before he was finally ruled down.
Morgan then later slipped behind Sensabaugh yet again — this time to haul in a 44-yard throw from Griffin at the Tennessee 40; giving Morgan a ridiculous average of 48 yards per catch He later added a 12-yard reception to complete his night early in the 3rd Quarter to put himself over the 100-yard mark.
That performance in my opinion should put Morgan over the top as he competes for a roster spot as the number #4 WR receiver behind Colston, Stills and rookie first-round draft choice Brandin Cooks. His competition to this point has included WR’s Nick Toon, Robert Meachem, Andy Tanner, Seantavius Jones (who caught a TD against the Titans) and Brandon Coleman.
Now here’s where I have to “come clean”, and I DON’T MIND doing so. Just last month I wrote an article here at Who Dat Dish titled “Which Saints WR Will be the Odd Man Out” — where I projected the 6 WR’s whom I felt who make the Saints’ final roster in the first week of September. Based at that time on Morgan’s limited participation at the practices at Greenbrier as well as his undeniable appearance of being injury-prone, I dismissed Morgan’s chances and declared him the “Odd Man Out”; but it’s safe to say that Morgan is yet another player so far this early into the season (along with Griffin and Ingram) that has made me eat my words.
Here’s what I said about Jo-Mo at that time, and why I felt he’d be the “odd man out”:
Now entering his 4th year in the League, Morgan has actually only played in ONE season because of injuries, and even that year (2012) he was limited by injury. Some players in the past that have come into the League with the greatest of potential to be future superstars, have had their careers cut short by injuries before they could get established. I think that Morgan is the classic example of one of those type of players. Despite his best intentions at becoming a key contributor to the offense through his blazing-fast speed and at times circus-like catching ability, I think Morgan will indeed be the “odd man out“ — Who Dat Dish Staff Writer Barry Hirstius, 7/30/2014
Now there’s no doubt that my analysis at the time was a bit premature, and there can be no doubt any more that Morgan’s perseverance has indeed begin to yield huge dividends. After the game, Morgan himself told the assembled reporters: “With any rehab process, you’re not allowed to just go from zero to 100 in the blink of an eye. It’s been a long process, but right now it feels great. 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.”
“Jo-Mo” exploded onto the scene as a UDFA from Walsh University (in Canton, Ohio) in 2011, when he turned heads with a DYNAMIC pre-season that was ended suddenly when he blew out his knee. He bounced back in 2012; where he racked up a jaw-dropping 37.9 yards per catch and three touchdowns on just 10 receptions. But he was injured towards the middle of the season, limiting the even greater potential of his impact as a deep-threat for Drew Brees.
His troubles started the following season last year with a Memorial Day weekend DWI arrest. Things became even worse when he went to last year’s training camp in Metairie and tore the meniscus (and partially tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee) at an intrasquad scrimmage last August.
He spent the rest of the 2013 campaign recovering while the Saints’ passing game finished 2nd best overall in the NFL. It was the second complete season (along with that initial year in 2011) that Morgan has missed after a serious preseason knee injury. Since then however, Morgan has entered (and has now nearly completed) a diversion program to avoid prosecution in the DWI case. He’s rehabbed his knee impressively and after an initial absence during the first few practices, he’s been a full participant at camp practices — which return today from West Virginia later this afternoon, at the Saints’ headquarters in Metairie.
Certainly I can’t question Morgan’s hard work and dedication; and as Friday night’s performance clearly illustrated, he is primed and ready to become yet another weapon in the arsenal of this high-powered Saints attack — one that I personally feel is the NFL’s VERY BEST. It should give opposing defenses migraines trying to figure out who they’re going to cover on a particular play, especially when Cooks, Graham, Stills, and Morgan are all on the field at the same time. Morgan’s recovery was definitely one of the best things to emerge from Friday night’s game, and Saints fans across the Who Dat Nation should be very pleased — now that Jo-Mo shows it’s a go…..