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John DeShazier: Nick Toon, Kenny Stills and Steve Breaston all battling for spot as third receiver

All three should get playing time against Kansas Chiefs on Friday night

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There isn't an expanding hole in the New Orleans Saints offense but, merely, a vacancy that awaits a new occupant.

For any member of the team to view the loss of receiver Joe Morgan (out for the season, knee surgery) differently would be to succumb to a belief that totally runs counter to the team's "next man up" philosophy. So, in a nutshell, someone is going to step in and get the snaps, catches and opportunities that would have been available this season for Morgan, the emerging deep threat who caught 10 passes for 379 yards last season.

The only question is, who?

If the competition can be limited to three players – though, possibly, it expands beyond – then the jockeying likely is among rookie Kenny Stills, who has taken most of the snaps in offensive packages with the No. 1 offense that Morgan would've received; second-year receiver Nick Toon, a fourth-round pick last year who sat out his rookie season after injuring his foot during preseason; and seven-year veteran Steve Breaston, a former 1,000-yard receiver for the Arizona Cardinals.

"I wouldn't say that I automatically fall into that role," said Stills, who has been impressive during training camp, lauded almost as much for his ability to learn the offense as his ability to catch.

"We got a lot of guys still out here competing for that spot," he said. "But I can definitely stretch the field and it's something that I'm capable of doing.

"I just want to go out there and show my teammates and my coaches that I can play and that I'm not just a practice player. I want to show them that I can really produce and do something out there on the field."

Toon, too, seeks a similar opportunity. It would've been difficult for him to crack the rotation last season, when the top four receivers were Marques Colston, Lance Moore, Devery Henderson and Morgan.

But Colston's recovery from a foot injury during the first week of training camp opened the door to an opportunity for more offensive snaps, and Morgan's injury has opened a door for a role that could be more expanded.

"It's exciting," Toon said. "It's been a long time coming, I'm finally healthy and very excited to get out there and get rolling.

"It's kind of "next man in" mentality. I've just got to step up, go out there and make plays and have fun.

"I'm fortunate to have the opportunity I have. My job is just to go out there and perform, showcase my ability, and the rest will take care of itself. My biggest thing is to make sure I'm having fun. When I'm having fun is when I play my best."

Each candidate will want to play his best, beginning with Friday's preseason opener against Kansas City in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. It'll be the first chance for each to show what he can do in live action as a Saint, the first chance to hopefully establish a bond and trust with quarterback Drew Brees in a game situation.

"I want to make sure that he can trust me and I'm in the right spot at the right time," Stills said.

Getting to that spot fast won't be a problem for Stills, Toon or Breaston. Getting there as fast as Morgan would take some doing because, admittedly, none blaze a trail as quickly as Morgan.

But each could be a tad faster than some might believe.

"One of the things that have been looked past a little bit in my skill set is my speed," said Toon, who ran track in college, at Wisconsin. "I'm not as fast as Joe or some of the super speed guys. But I do have decent speed.

"I didn't showcase it as much as I think I could have in college, but it's definitely something I'm able to do, go out there and stretch a field and make plays and get yards after the catch if the opportunity arises. But first, you've got to catch the ball."

And in order to catch the ball, he'll have to be on the field.

There's an opportunity for him – and Stills, and Breaston – to be there with the Saints offense this regular season, to cash in on a chance that suddenly became available.

A vacancy exists. It awaits the right occupant.

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