Week 7 of the NFL season has concluded, and for the New Orleans Saints, it ended with a 31-24 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Saints struggled mightily to score throughout the first half of this game, and special teams was certainly a part of that. Considering both their kicker and punter are rookies in their NFL debut season, this makes special teams even more intriguing. In this article, we will analyze the week 7 game, taking a look at both Lou Hedley and Blake Grupe and how they did in this performance on punts and field goals respectively. So, without further ado, we go to Blake Grupe.
Blake Grupe - 3/4 on field goals, 1/1 on PATs
After a tough week last week in which Blake Grupe missed two of his four field goal attempts, he needed a bounce-back week this week to gain some momentum. This was kind of the case, but he was also not perfect. His first field goal of the day was a miss wide right from 51 yards, in which the snap and hold were both clean, Grupe just kicked it wide. The worst part is the distance on this kick was completely fine, it was just not accurate. He would go on to get a chip shot shortly thereafter however, kicking from 23 yards out, which he made easily as you would hope (though it was nice to see after last week’s 29-yard miss). It is reassuring to see him make a short-range kick and also a kick after a miss, as this shows he has some level of confidence.
Grupe’s third attempt was also not much of a long-distance kick either, coming in at 35 yards. He would go on to put both this kick and a 42-yarder shortly after that right through the uprights both times with clean trajectories with very little horizontal movement. One of the biggest issues with Grupe the first six weeks was his kicks had a pretty wide variety of breaks where they would end up offline even if they started out on the right trajectory. The last three kicks this past Thursday however looked more reasonable and had much less horizontal break, which is good to see.
Lou Hedley - 4 punts for 169 yards
Lou Hedley had another tough week in week 7, as despite the one extremely long punt of 62 yards, all of his other punts fell below 41 yards, which is extremely poor. His first punt of the day was not bad at all, going 40 yards to the Jacksonville 15-yard line before being muffed and recovered by New Orleans. Despite this punt having a pretty short duration of time in the air, it was somewhat to the benefit of the Saints as it created an issue for the returner Jamal Agnew. The second punt of the day for Hedley was absolutely atrocious, however, and genuinely could have been much better given the circumstances. Hedley punted this one 28 yards, and it only went down to the Jacksonville 18-yard line. He could have put this anywhere inside the 10 or at least close to it and it would have been fine, but only getting 28 yards with that type of field position is unacceptable. It looked like he was trying to get it out of bounds, but it stayed in bounds for a fair catch.
The third punt of the day for Hedley on the other hand was much better, going a whopping 62 yards and putting Jacksonville at their own 26-yard line, despite Hedley punting from the Saints’ 12-yard line. There was absolutely 0 airtime on this kick, and Hedley got a running start to the side and then punted it. It would bounce first around the JAX 45, and then continue to roll for another nearly 20 yards. If anything, this was a poor read by Jamal Agnew as he could have at least possessed the punt about 10-15 yards sooner but decided to back off. Regardless, a good punt by Hedley after the last one. The final punt for Hedley went back to being not great, as he would only punt it 39 yards from the NO 16, where it would be returned from the JAX 45 to the NO 46. Another not-so-great punt in terms of distance, and the airtime was slightly better but not exceptional.
Overall, a tough day for Hedley given the scenarios he was given a chance to perform in. Despite the one really solid punt, he had 2 that were negative and one that was relatively neutral. We will see if he can continue to hone in on why he has some good punts and some poor, and work to resolve the inconsistency over the long break between TNF and Sunday.