Josh Morgan averaged a staggering 37.9 yards per catch last season. (Bill Feig/AP)
The NFL's injury situation is approaching epidemic proportions, and there has been all of one preseason game played so far. Three more players -- Chicago cornerback Kelvin Hayden, New Orleans wide receiver Joe Morgan and his teammate, defensive end Kenyon Coleman -- all were ruled out for the season early Wednesday.
The Saints bore the brunt of that bad news, losing two players who were expected to be key contributors in 2013. Coleman just signed with the team (from Dallas) back in March, as part of new defensive coordinator Rex Ryan's transition to a 3-4 defense. The 34-year-old Coleman reportedly suffered a torn pectoral muscle.
That injury could leave the Saints searching for more help up front. For now, they'll likely move 2012 third-round pick Akiem Hicks into the starting lineup at DE, but there is minimal depth behind him.
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This also is the second crippling blow delivered to the Saints' D this offseason. Earlier, projected starting outside linebacker Victor Butler, a free-agent pickup like Coleman, suffered a season-ending knee injury.
So, the defensively challenged Saints may again find themselves needing to score points in bunches. Which means that Morgan's ACL injury stings, too. Morgan had just 10 catches last season, but he averaged a staggering 37.9 yards on those receptions. The Saints had him pegged as a frontrunner for their No. 3 receiver spot and, with Drew Brees tossing him passes, Morgan looked like a potential breakout candidate for 2013.
Without him, the Saints will turn to either Nick Toon, rookie Kenny Stills or the recently signed Steve Breaston to team with starters Marques Colston and Lance Moore.
The Bears' Hayden, meanwhile, tore his left hamstring, an injury that almost certainly will land him on injured reserve for the year. The Bears re-signed Hayden this offseason to a one-year contract and had him ticketed to fill their nickel cornerback position. He had 37 tackles, five pass break-ups and an interception, spending the majority of his time in that role during the 2012 season.
As with both Coleman and Morgan in New Orleans, the Bears have minimal options here. First up in Hayden's stead should be Zack Bowman, who had six interceptions for Chicago back in 2009. Bowman has served mostly as a special-teams player over the past couple of seasons, though -- he saw just 21 snaps on defense in 2012, according to Pro Football Focus.
There really are no proven NFL defensive backs on the Chicago roster behind Bowman, so the Bears probably will dip back into free agency at some point, if only to round out the roster.
The season-ending injuries suffered by Coleman, Hayden and Morgan continued a troubling couple of weeks for the league, with the number of players out for 2013 now well into double figures. A majority of those injuries have come on non-contact plays, too, particularly the rash of ACL tears.
Whenever the league inevitably gets back around to discussing an 18-game schedule, its players will point again to the massive number of ailments they compile each season. The first two weeks of training camp have provided plenty of examples.
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