Saints confident in depth at receiver despite Thomas, Sanders being out vs. Panthers

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The New Orleans Saints will be without their top two receivers Sunday, when they host the Carolina Panthers at noon in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Saints receiver Michael Thomas was ruled out with a hamstring injury and Emmanuel Sanders was added to the NFL’s reserve/COVID list after testing positive for the coronavirus Thursday. The Saints also placed receiver Bennie Fowler on injured reserve Friday.

Payton said roster uncertainty is just “part of the deal this year.”

“We’ve talked about the distractions and focusing on the things you can control,” he said. “Last night we spent a lot of time on how we want to put the plan together in place of him and we’ll do so accordingly.”

Payton said the Saints feel good about their depth at receiver and many of the available pass catchers on the Saints rosters have played significant snaps this season.

The Saints have three available receivers currently on their 53-man roster: Tre’Quan Smith, Deonte Harris and Marquez Callaway.

Smith has played the most snaps of any Saints receiver this season and leads that group with 194 yards and two touchdowns on 16 catches.

Harris serves mainly as a kick returner but but his 85 yards from scrimmage this season have already eclipsed his total of 55 in 2019.

Callaway, an undrafted rookie out of Tennessee, is coming off of the best game of his young career catching four passes for 34 yards in the Saints win against the Los Angeles Chargers.

The Saints also have receivers Austin Carr, Tommylee Lewis and Juwan Johnson on the practice squad. Carr’s spent the past three seasons with the Saints and was active for the Saints against the Chargers.

New Orleans will also rely on tight end Jared Cook who ranks fourth on the team with 11 catches for 166 yards and two touchdowns as well as running back Alvin Kamara who lead the Saints in both receptions (38) and yards (395).