A look at Saints kicker Wil Lutz throughout the 2016 season.
The pressure was on before Wil Lutz lined up for his first kick as a New Orleans Saint.
When the coach (Sean Payton) calls your workout the best he ever has seen by a kicker, then releases the kicker (Kai Forbath) who had won the competition during a prolonged battle that included offseason workouts, OTAs and training camp, so that the team can sign you, then nothing less than excellence is expected.
But Lutz and the kicking team were off-center in the beginning. The rookie made 15 of his first 21 kicks, and times were trying. Two field-goal attempts were blocked (one was returned for a touchdown, the other set up a touchdown) and he also had a point-after attempt blocked and returned for a defensive two-point conversion, the deciding points in Denver's 25-23 victory over the Saints.
But the Saints hired Kevin O'Dea as a special team consultant to help smooth out the snap-hold-kick operation. And they shored up the blocking on kicks. And Lutz finished with a flourish, making his final 13 field-goal attempts in 2016 to finish the season 28-for-34.
By the end, he resembled the kicker that Payton lauded in the beginning.
BEST GAME:Payton never lost faith in Lutz, and Lutz rewarded him in the Saints' 41-38 victory over Carolina. Even though he was just 6 of 10 at the time for the season, there was no hesitation to call on him late in a tie game, and Lutz responded with a 52-yard, lead-taking field goal with 11 seconds left.
BEST QUOTE:"I just thought the velocity, the accuracy … and the way it came off his foot, his leg strength … every element to it. So we saw 'X' number of field goals, 'X' number of kickoffs, deep kickoffs, short. And when it was over with I looked at (pro scouting director) Terry(Fontenot) and everyone else that was at the workout, and I said, 'Have we seen anything else like that?' It was real impressive." – Saints Coach Sean Payton, on why the team signed Lutz after his workout.