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Special Teams Analysis: Saints vs. Panthers

With special teams being an emphasis for the Saints this year, let’s take a look at how they performed in Week 2.

NFL: SEP 18 Saints at Panthers Photo by David Jensen/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Week 2 of the NFL season has concluded, and for the New Orleans Saints, it ended with a 20-17 victory over the Carolina Panthers. With that close of a game, special teams were extremely critical to their success, especially considering both their kicker and punter are rookies in their NFL debut season. In this article, we will analyze the week 2 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 - 2/2 on field goals & 2/2 on PATs

1st quarter - 0:36 - The first field goal of the night for Blake Grupe was a chip shot, as it was only a 28-yarder. However, ensuring there is consistency in your young kicker from this short range is good to see. Grupe had no issues with this field goal, putting it directly through the uprights with plenty of distance.

In terms of the snap and hold, there was significant improvement this week compared to last, which can be seen on this play very well. The snap from Zach Wood was perfectly placed for Lou Hedley to grab and plant the ball, and he had to make very few adjustments to get the laces outwards. Overall, a good kick and snap.

2nd quarter - 9:52 - The second field goal of the day for Grupe was also a chip shot, this time even shorter at only 23 yards. However, this field goal showed good mental stability from Grupe, as there was pressure coming off the left edge to try and block the field goal attempt. The rusher got around the side of the blockers and did actually almost make it to the ball, however, Grupe got the kick away quickly and drained it after a good snap and hold. Impressive to see from a rookie playing his first primetime and divisional NFL game.

Lou Hedley - 5 punts for 210 yards

1st quarter - 12:03 - The first punt of the day for Lou Hedley was...not great. The intriguing part about this was that, from the film, it seems there was little to nothing going wrong in the whole sequence of getting the ball to his hands and then to his foot. This punt went 29 yards to the Carolina 35-yard line, which was certainly not optimal.

The snap from Zach Wood was well-placed and at the right height. From what I can see, the ball may have landed at an incorrect angle when Hedley dropped it onto his kicking foot. The fact that it had nearly 0 velocity when kicked, and was at a very low and short angle, leads me to believe this. It may have either rode up too high and caught his lower ankle or was just not on the top of his foot at a good angle. Regardless, that is something you definitely want to see cleaned up sooner rather than later and seeing it so early into his NFL career will be good as it can be worked on quickly.

2nd quarter - 6:25 - The second punt for Hedley was much better in this game, as he would punt it 40 yards and give it enough hang time to force a fair catch at Carolina’s 10-yard line. You can tell Hedley was much more comfortable with this kick, as he follows through much more than the prior punt and really gets it up into the air. While it was not perfect, it was most definitely an improvement, which is good to see after a tough start.

2nd quarter - 0:37 - In all honesty this may be the most impressive punt from Hedley so far through his two NFL games. First off, the snap was low by Zach Wood, which forced Lou to adjust a bit and reset for the punt. Then, he gets pretty substantial pressure off the left side of the line, which certainly made him rush the punt even more. Yet with all that, he managed to kick it 45 yards to the Carolina 16-yard line and bounce it to the returner who only got 3 yards on the return. This showed the versatility of Hedley as well, as this was not his “knuckleball” type punt either, it was more of a hanging punt with good rotation. While it was not a crazy running punt or anything, from a technique standpoint, this was extremely impressive.

3rd quarter - 10:36 - The impressive punts continued, as Hedley got backed up to his own endzone for the punt. He caught the ball at the very back of the NO endzone, and with very little space to work with, booted it 47 yards up the field almost to the logo. This was returned for 12 yards however which slightly diminishes the success of the play. But still, an impressive punt to see out of a rookie under pressure.

4th quarter - 12:54 - Finally, Hedley had another punt with pressure, this time off the edge with a direct rush at him. The snap was from midfield, and Hedley kicked it from the NO 40 to the opposing 2-yard line or so. Isaac Yiadom had a very small chance at making a play to keep it out of the endzone, but it was just slightly too quick to pin Carolina at their own 1 or 2-yard line. His longest punt of the day, this time 49 yards, was a mix between speed and height, a good sign to see that he can mold the two together rather than just use one or the other.

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