Bringing back a series of pieces from the past three years, we’re going to check each position group on the New Orleans Saints and discuss how they improve the Saints’ chances of making a run in 2020. On to the part of the team that most goes under the radar, special teams!
To view previous parts, see below:
When the Saints special teams comes to mind, historically the first name that popped in mind was Thomas Morstead. However, Morstead - while still one of the league’s best - has seen his average yards per punt decrease over each of the past three seasons.
The new face of the Saints special teams became kicker Wil Lutz, and Lutz had himself another stellar year as well, making his first Pro Bowl. Lutz drilled 48 of 49 extra points in 2019, and made 32 of 36 field goals, perfect from everything 40 yards or less.
On the other side of special teams, the punt and kick return games finally found a groove. After years of below-average play in the return game, Deonte Harris emerged as a legitimate superstar in the return game, earning First Team All-Pro honors in his rookie season.
So here’s why they’re better in 2020:
Wil Lutz signed an extension to remain with the Saints last offseason. Morstead is still under contract for another three seasons, and the Saints signed kicker Blake Gillikin as an undrafted free agent out of Penn State. The kicking and punting games are set - not to mention Taysom Hill still serving as a gunner on returns and as a blocker/gadget player for punts.
The Saints signed return specialist Marcus Sherels last offseason, expecting the former Viking to come in and take the return job for the Saints. Instead, Sherels was beat in training camp by UDFA Deonte Harris. Harris took the NFL by storm, scoring his first touchdown against the Seattle Seahawks on a punt return:
With his first year of NFL football under his belt, Harris can now focus just on improving his game. If Harris gets better in 2020, which is possible since 2019 was just his rookie season...the league better watch out.