The carousel at the Saints long snapper position has hopefully ended with the recent signing of defensive end Zach Wood. Five players have already been thrown from the special teams carousel. Longtime Saints snapper, Justin Drescher was brought back after Thomas Gafford, Jesse Schmitt and rookie Chase Dominguez failed to latch onto the job.
The Saints had elected not to re-sign the seven-year veteran, Drescher, last offseason. The team struggled mightily in the kicking game last year and had to bring in special teams guru Kevin O’Dea midseason to improve all three aspects (the snap, hold, and kick). Kicker Wil Lutz had three kicks blocked and two returned for either a touchdown or a defensive two-point conversion.
At first, the main problem seemed to be the low trajectory of Lutz’ powerful kicks, but O’Dea worked just as much at improving the origin of a successful kick, the snap. Even though Drescher had been the Saints snapper for seven seasons, they were looking to improve the position.
Even after re-signing Drescher this year, his job was never truly safe. After injuring his leg in the Houston Texans preseason game, the Saints cut the veteran with an injury settlement. Sean Payton showed he meant business at solving the problem at long snapper by investing a 2019 seventh round pick in a trade for Philadelphia Eagles long snapper Jon Dorenbos.
Dorenbos won over the locker room immediately with his magical talents, but in the final preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens, the Saints had yet another field goal blocked. I don’t know which player (snapper, holder, or kicker) shouldered the most blame, but after losing multiple games last year the same way, my confidence was not bolstered.
Then, with my confidence already waining, the Saints received the blockbuster news that Dorenbos’ physical had revealed an aortic aneurism which would require immediate season ending surgery. The Saints tried out another five long snappers including John DePalma, Colin Holba, Jeff Overbaugh, and Tanner Purdum before signing former SMU graduate and Dallas Cowboy Zach Wood.
Wood, a defensive end and long snapper, has spent the past two seasons on the Dallas Cowboys, but has never appeared in a regular season game. He has three days to create chemistry and trust with holder Chase Daniel and kicker Wil Lutz. Special teams will be under a microscope Monday night against the Minnesota Vikings. Let’s hope this carousel has finally come to an end. I still can’t stop feeling like this is just the beginning.