The New Orleans Saints success during the 2019 regular season was a true team effort. The Saints had their usual offensive success behind quarterback Drew Brees, a dominant offensive line, and a record breaking season from receiver Michael Thomas. The New Orleans defense was one of the most disruptive in the league, overcoming a series of injuries and responsible for winning a number of ballgames. The Saints were equally impressive in another, often forgotten, element of football games.
The New Orleans special teams units were among the best in the league. Veteran punter Thomas Morstead gives the team a consistent field position advantage, whether it's with his booming leg to insure that the defense doesn't have a short field to defend or his pinpoint accuracy to pin an opponent deep inside their own territory. The Saints punt coverage units were fast and stifling, holding opposing returners to only 6.9 yards per attempt. The Saints blocked 2 punts on the year and provided consistent pressure on opposing punters causing them to rush their kicks.
Here are our season game balls from football's often forgotten unit.
(HONORABLE MENTION: Thomas Morstead, J.T. Gray, Justin Hardee)
Deonte Harris, returner
Harris went from a little-known undrafted rookie from Assumption College to an All-Pro and the league's most feared return artist. The diminutive 5'6 Harris has excellent vision, lethal elusiveness and gamebreaking speed with the ball in his hands. He led the NFL with 338 punt return yards and 982 combined yardage on kickoff and punt returns. Harris averaged 9.4 yards per punt return and 26.8 yards per kickoff return, scoring one touchdown and nearly breaking a number of others. Harris gave his offense good field position to start drives in nearly every game with his electric open field skills. Opponents began to alter their kicks to avoid the dangerous rookie, which also often resulted in better field position for the team's offense.
Wil Lutz, kicker
Lutz was awarded a Pro Bowl bid after the most prolific kicking season in franchise history. His 32 successful field goals broke a single season team mark he had previously shared with John Carney and NFL Hall of Famer Morten Anderson. Lutz was second in the NFC with an 88.9% conversion rate on field goals and led the conference with 144 points. His strong and accurate leg all but guaranteed the Saints at least three points from just across midfield. He nailed 16 of 20 tries from outside of 40 yards, also a franchise record. Lutz was perfect on all 16 field goal attempts inside of 40 yards and was money with the game on the line. The Saints won three games in 2019 by three points or less. They won two of those with a Lutz field goal on the final play of the game, including a 58-Yd game-winner against the Houston Texans in the season opener.
The New Orleans special teams often tilted the competitive balance of games to the Saints' favor in 2019. Whether it was coverage units blanketing opposing returners, providing a threat of instant points with an electrifying returner of their own, holding a field position advantage with an outstanding punter, or guaranteeing automatic points with an elite kicker, the New Orleans special teams were indeed special in 2019.
Who was the Saints most valuable special teams performer in 2019?
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