2020 New Orleans Saints special teams breakdown
An 11-year veteran, Thomas Morstead was the club's fifth-round draft choice (164th overall in 2009) from Southern Methodist. Spending all 11 seasons with New Orleans, Morstead has a gross average of 46.9 on 630 punts with a 41.6 net and 228 punts inside the 20-yard line. During the 2019 season, Morstead ranked fifth in the NFL in net punting average (43.1), and he has the second-highest career net punting average in NFL history. During his rookie season, the Saints won Super Bowl XLIV. Morstead, quarterback Drew Brees and safety Malcolm Jenkins are the only three players on the roster who were on the Super Bowl team. The 6-foot-4, 235-pounder is eighth on the Saints all-time games played list (174).
Kicker Wil Lutz had a breakout season in 2019, drilling a franchise-record 32 field goals and he was selected to his first Pro Bowl. The 5-foot-11, 184-pounder has a 87.5 accuracy rate which is the highest in Saints history. Lutz has played four seasons with the club, recording 553 career points, which ranks third in club record books and his 119 field goals fourth. Lutz has also helped New Orleans win the field position game on kickoffs with 245 career touchbacks, including a career-high 74 in 2019. He will enter his fifth season with the Black and Gold.
Mentioned in the wide receiver breakdown, Deonte Harty will also serve a huge role in the return game. The speedy 5-foot-6, 170-pounder returned 36 punts for 338 yards (9.4 avg.) with a 53-yard touchdown and also brought back 24 kickoffs for 644 yards (26.8 avg.) and was named a first-team Associated Press All-Pro, selected to the Pro Bowl and was a consensus All-Rookie selection.
Originally signed as a free agent by the Saints prior to the 2017 season opener, Zach Wood has provided consistency since his arrival. The 6-foot-3, 255-pound long snapper played in all 16 regular season games and the wild card game in 2019. Wood will return for his fourth campaign with New Orleans.
Former Illinois wideout Justin Hardee transitioned to defensive back after joining the Saints practice squad prior to the 2017 season. The 6-foot-1, 200-pounder has developed into a special teams ace for the club. Hardee has appeared in 46 regular-season games over the past three seasons, posting 15 solo tackles, one 77-yard interception return, two passes defended, and a team-leading 24 special teams stops. Hardee will enter his fourth season with New Orleans continuing to be a significant special teams contributor.
Defensive back J.T. Gray joined the club after the 2018 NFL Draft. In 2019, Gray played in all 16 regular season games and posted team-high and career-high 16 special teams tackles, one blocked punt, one coverage fumble recovery, and one defensive tackle. The 6-foot, 202-pounder was selected Associated Press second-team All-Pro. Gray enters his third season with the Black and Gold and looks to be a key contributor in special teams.
Punter Blake Gillikin was signed following the 2020 NFL Draft. Gillikin is tied for No. 2 on Penn State's career punting average charts and landed 53 career punts downed inside the opponent's 10-yard line. Gillikin will enter his first season in the NFL come training camp.
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