For all of Andy Dalton’s recent struggles, there’s one aspect of his game which worries Saints pass rushers heading into Sunday afternoon’s game.
Dalton, the Cincinnati Bengals quarterback has a fast release — from snap to throw.
This season, he has been sacked 12 times, which is tied for third-fewest in the NFL. Dalton has also taken 28 hits (third in the league).
“He gets the ball out quick,” said Saints outside linebacker Junior Galette, who has a team-high six sacks. “He gets the ball out quicker than any other quarterback in the league.”
Dalton, a fourth-year pro, is coming off one of the worst game in recent decades by a starting NFL quarterback. During last Thursday’s 24-3 loss to Cleveland, he completed 10 of 33 passes for 86 yards and three intrceptions. He was also sacked twice, finishing with a passer rating of 2.0.
This season, Dalton (1,960 passing yards) has thrown more INTs (nine) than TDs (eight).
Not that Galette thinks getting to Dalton at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome is an impossible charge.
“Their O-line has done a pretty good job of protecting him,” Galette said, “but they’re still seems you can get through, bust through. Guys have to win their one-on-ones (against offensive linemen).”
Emphasis on special teams
The Saints are preparing for more work than usual on punt coverage.
Bengals cornerback Adam Jones has had 90 returns since his last fair catch, dating back to Nov. 16, 2006. With Cincinnati (2010-present), he has 57 returns without a fair catch.
This season, Jones is averaging 14.8 yards per punt return. He has a long of 47 yards and has fumbled once.
Jones has five career punt return TDs, second-most among active players.
“I’m trying to score,” Jones told media covering the Bengals. “I don’t get excited over 10 yards.”
Saints punter Thomas Morstead said his unit is looking forward to the extra work. The group prefers to earn their wages with tackles than run down field, only to see fair catches.
“Guys knowing that, they’re excited. They’re going to get to go. If the ball’s in play, they’re going to get a chance to make tackles,” said Morstead, who is averaging 45.8 yards per punt, including 10 inside the 20.
Saints safety Marcus Ball agreed.
“He’s a legend around my way. Everybody knows Pacman, and what he can do,” said Ball, who like Jones, grew up in Atlanta.
(Ball grew up on the east side; Jones on the west side.)
“We want Pacman,” said Ball, who plays on the Saints punt coverage team. “We want the challenge. He’s one of the best (punt returners) in the league, if not the best. We look forward to the challenge. We don’t shy away from it. We’re not going to kick away from him.”
WR back from suspension
Saints receiver Joe Morgan on Thursday said he embraced his two-week suspension as an opportunity to grow physically and mentally.
While Morgan declined to reveal the reason behind his suspension — coach Sean Payton also declined multiple times — Morgan did say he learned from the experience.
“The learning experience I can take from it is, don’t take things for granted, and handle things a different way,” said Morgan, a fourth-year pro. “I’m accountable for whatever happened. What he gave me was something we agreed upon and something that I had no choice in the matter.”
Morgan’s tenure with the Saints, while highlighted by a solid 2012 season as Drew Brees’ deep threat, proved later to be more challenging.
He missed all of last season with a season-ending knee injury during the offseason and this fall has struggled to get on the field. He was active against Atlanta and Minnesota, but only played against the Falcons in the season opener. He did not catch a pass.
In college, Morgan was dismissed from the team at Illinois for unspecified reasons.
“Being suspended sucks,” Morgan said. “Especially when you don’t know what comes of it.”
Injuries of note
Saints running backs Pierre Thomas (rib/shoulder) and Khiry Robinson (arm) remained out of action during Thursday’s practice. The two running backs have missed the last three games, giving the opportunity to Mark Ingram to star as the featured back.
Cornerback Keenan Lewis (knee) also missed practice, but remains optimistic that he will be able to play Sunday. Receiver Robert Meachem (ankle), running back Edwin Baker (concussion) and linebacker Curtis Lofton (ankle) also did not practice.
Ingram (shoulder) and linebacker David Hawthorne (hand) were limited. Right tackle Zach Strief (chest) and punter Morstead (illness) were full participants.
For Cincinnati, running back Giovani Bernard (hip/clavicle), linebacker Vontaze Burfict (knee), cornerback Terence Newman (knee) and offensive linemen Andre Smith (ankle) and Andrew Whitworth (non-injury related) missed Thursday’s practice.
Linebacker Rey Maualuga (hamstring) and running back Cedric Peerman (knee) were limited. Defensive back Leon Hall (concussion), safety Taylor Mays (foot), tight end Jermaine Gresham (thigh) and guard/center Mike Pollak (knee) were full participants.