Would you care to take a guess on how many kickers the New Orleans Saints have had the past six seasons? Let me jog your memory: In 2011 it was John Kasay. 2012 saw the return of Garrett Hartley, the hero of the 2009 NFC Championship game. In 2013, it was Hartley then Shayne Graham, who kicked for the team through the 2014 season. In 2015, Kai Forbath and Zach Hocker shared the kicking duties, before they both gave way to 2016 place kicker Wil Lutz. If you’re counting at home that’s six kickers in six seasons, and we’re not even counting all the guys who had workouts with the Saints during that span.
Sean Payton isn’t a big fan of kickers, that’s the understatement of the year. However, this past season Wil Lutz might have finally ensured that there won’t be any more carousel at the kicking position in New Orleans for the near future. Lutz was 5th in the NFL in scoring among kickers with 133 points. He made 28 of his 34 attempted field goals (82%) which puts him in the top half of the league in field goal percentage, although he has room for improvement in that department. Lutz also made the 4th-longest field goal this season (57 yards), highlighting the strength of his leg. Additionally, he converted all but one of his 50 attempted extra points (98%).
On the negative side of things, Lutz had two field goals blocked in 2016. Although it may not seem like a high number, it was tied for second in the NFL. The Saints kicker also had one extra point blocked, but it directly resulted in a soul-crushing loss to the Denver Broncos in week 10 of the regular season, when the Saints still had a legitimate chance to get above .500 at 5-4.
What really differentiated Wil Lutz from the previous five kickers for the Saints however, was the fact that he completely took over the kick-off duties that had been part of punter Thomas Morstead’s job since 2009, allowing the Saints’ excellent punter to save his leg not only for this past season but more importantly for the future. Lutz recorded a touchback on 49 of his 93 kickoffs (53%) and showed great hang time on the designed shorter kickoffs.
At only age 22, Wil Lutz showed great promise during his rookie season with the Saints in 2016. With the hope that New Orleans will hire a competent special teams coordinator after the firing of Greg McMahon, the Saints may have found a long-term kicker. That’s of course provided that Sean Payton shows some rare patience, if for instance Wil Lutz struggles in the early part of the 2017 season. When you’re a place kicker in New Orleans it’s always better to rent than to buy.