Unproven wide receivers must step up for Saints offense
METAIRIE, La. (AP) Unproven wide receivers are going to have to come through for the New Orleans Saints if they want to stay in the ranks of the NFL's top passing teams.
The Saints have finished fourth or higher in passing rankings every year since coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees arrived in 2006.
But after trading Kenny Stills to Miami in March, New Orleans enters the summer with only two proven wideouts-veteran Marques Colston (59 catches, 902 yards in 2014) and 2014 first-round pick Brandin Cooks (53 receptions, 550 yards).
Behind them is a cast of unknowns.
Second-year undrafted free agents Seantavius Jones and Brandon Coleman practice with the second unit during Wednesday's OTA workout, the ninth of the offseason. Joseph Morgan, another undrafted free agent whom the Saints released last December, is getting a second chance to make the roster after four injury-affected, up-and-down years.
The burden on the wide receivers could be even larger this year without tight end Jimmy Graham, who was traded to Seattle in March. Graham and Stills combined for 148 catches and 1,820 yards in 2014.
Morgan had four catches while Jones and Coleman were relegated to the practice squad for most of the season.
The Saints also have fourth-year receiver Nick Toon, who caught a career-high 17 passes last year, and veteran Josh Morgan, who made 10 receptions for Chicago.
''There are a handful of guys out here that are all competing for touches and playing time,'' Payton said. ''I think that is a good thing.''
Coleman and Jones signed with the Saints on the same day of May in 2014.
''They were two guys that obviously made an impression on us on the practice squad last year,'' Payton said. ''They have had a good offseason. They're playing with a knowledge of the offense and you can see that a little bit in their play.''
Coleman, a 6-foot-6 target, caught 94 passes in three years at Rutgers, then went undrafted after skipping his senior year. He plans to make that history an unfortunate side note rather than the end of his story.
''It's just a tribute to the hard work I put in this offseason,'' he said. ''I'm just going to keep doing it and stay consistent. I have to keep showing it every day to keep them (the coaches) believing in me because I believe in myself.''
Jones, from Valdosta State, has made several big plays in the Saints' open practices.
''People really sleep on it, but I'm pretty fast,'' he said. ''And I can go up, get the ball and pluck it out of the air.''
Morgan's first year in New Orleans was 2011, earlier than any receiver on the roster other than Colston, but he missed all of his first season and 2013 with knee injuries. He averaged a whopping 37.9 yards on 10 receptions in 2012 after earning a roster spot because of his speed.
He was not 100 percent healthy last year when he returned from a torn ACL in his left knee.
''In training camp last year, some of the stuff that I'm doing now I couldn't even begin to try to do,'' Morgan said. ''I'd go to plant off my knee and the first thing that popped in my mind was I hope it's OK. More than half of coming back from an injury is mental.''
NOTES: Payton confirmed outside linebacker Junior Galette had a pectoral injury, adding no decision had been made on whether or not he would need surgery that would sideline him for several months. Galette led the Saints with 10 sacks last year and had 12 in 2013. ''We just want to make sure we receive the right opinions on the direction we are going to go,'' Payton said. ''I'll leave it at that.'' . Offensive tackle Andrus Peat, the Saints' first-round draft pick, practiced for the first time since rookie minicamp after missing the first eight OTA workouts to attend classes at Stanford. NFL rules do not allow rookies to participate in the summer program if their school's classes are still in session. Peat graduated earlier this week.