It was a bit of a mystery trying to find out why Joe Morgan went missing after he logged a pair of plays that went for 60-plus yards Monday night against the Baltimore Ravens.
Many viewed him as the answer for the team’s lack of explosive plays this season, yet he only logged 18 snaps while fellow wide receiver Nick Toon played 44.
The disparity in snaps led to some outrage among observers — but what many failed to realize is that it was not an either-or proposition. The Saints use Morgan as a “Z” receiver, which puts him behind Kenny Stills in the base offense, while Toon plays “X,” like Marques Colston.
The “X” receiver plays the outside, or what might be called a split end. The “Z” receiver, or flanker, lines up opposite the “X” and is eligible to go in motion and can operate more over the middle.
So when asked Friday why Toon received more snaps than Morgan, coach Sean Payton pointed to the difference in position, saying that Stills and Morgan were “both playing ‘Z.’ ”
“Toon was probably over at the ‘X’ when Marques (Coslton) was playing some of the sub, and we had some snaps where Toon was in with Morgan,” he said.
By “sub,” Payton was referencing his three-receiver sets, which he calls his nickel offense. In these packages, some receivers move about and take on different responsibilities. It’s not uncommon to see Colston or Stills kick to the inside and play either the “Z” or “Y” receiver (slot) spots.
“In the nickel, they’re playing one or the other, and then in the nickel there’s some guys who can play alternate positions ... some of those guys in the three-receiver sets would come in and play a different position,” Payton said.
Punt returner Jalen Saunders did not do much in his first game with the Saints, but it was through no fault of his own.
Baltimore punter Sam Koch caught New Orleans by surprise last week, sending two line drives down the field that were almost reminiscent of a squib kick, which are designed to limit returns.
“I haven’t seen that at all — at least not in the pro stage of football, I haven’t seen a rugby punt,” Saunders said. “It surprised us, coach Payton, all of us. We kind of adjusted to it. Obviously we didn’t get more than those two punts.”
Saunders was unable to field the first punt and returned the second for 7 yards. He’s hoping he receives an opportunity to bring more back this week against the Steelers but said he was not frustrated by being limited in his debut.
“I’m not disappointed I didn’t get the opportunity,” Saunders said. “There’s not much I can do. That’s out of my control. I’m looking forward to this opportunity to showcase my ability.”
Running back Khiry Robinson and linebacker Kyle Knox will miss another game.
In its final injury report of the week, New Orleans ruled the duo out for Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. It will mark the sixth game that Robinson (forearm) has missed, and the fourth that Knox (hand) has been inactive for this season.
Guard Ben Grubbs (neck) and center Jonathan Goodwin (toe) are both listed as probable after being limited in practice Friday.
Running back Pierre Thomas (rib/shoulder), wide receiver Robert Meachem (ankle), linebacker Curtis Lofton (ankle) and cornerback Keenan Lewis (knee) are probable after practicing fully Friday.
The Steelers have ruled out defensive tackle Steve McClendon (shoulder) and cornerback Cortez Allen (thumb).