The New Orleans Saints special teams unit ranked second for the 2023 NFL season according to Rick Gosselin's annual rankings.
"This was the fifth Top 5 finish for the Saints and their coach Darren Rizzi in the last six seasons," Gosselin wrote. "New Orleans finished in the Top 10 in 13 categories, either leading or sharing the lead in five of them and finishing in second in two others. New Orleans allowed a sterling 5.6 yards in punt coverage to lead the league and also blocked two punts."
The Saints took a bold step of entrusting rookies at their two kicking positions this season, however the Saints were rewarded as both helped the special teams unit reclaim their usual standard. Kicker Blake Grupe finished the season with 30 field goals, breaking the Saints rookie record and led the team with 130 points. Punter Lou Hedley played a key role in the league low 5.6 yards return yards per punt and also finished tied for fifth in the NFL with 31 punts downed inside the opposing 20-yard line.
The special teams unit was also bolstered by wide receiver/return specialist Rashid Shaheed who finished the season as the Associated Press First Team All-Pro punt returner as well as being named to the NFC Pro Bowl team as a returner in his second NFL season.
The Saints finished the 2022 season ranked 20th in Gosselin's rankings, a far cry from their typical top five finishes.
This year, the Saints finished with 252 points only behind the Houston Texans' 236 in Gosselin's rankings, which are based on ranking the teams on 22 special-teams-related statistics and assigning the team a numeric value for each ranking on each statistic, with the team with the lowest totals finishing on top of the rankings.
Gosselin has covered the NFL for 50 years at several publications, last working for the Dallas Morning News as the newspaper's NFL columnist. Gossellin is also a representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.
Check out the top 22 photos of New Orleans Saints wide receiver/return specialist Rashid Shaheed as he was selected to the 2024 Pro Bowl Games.