Saints 2018: What’s So Special?

Tracking Special Teams Play in the 2018 Saints Season: Installment 1

Steve Gleason's Block against the Falcons to reopen the Superdome on Monday Night Football in 2006.
JRNOLA’s Chris Taylor and mentor Jim Rapier track What’s So Special from the Superdome Press Box

Your 2018 Saints: What’s So Special?
Installment 1

by JRNOLA’s Christopher Taylor, mentored by Jim Rapier

Special teams has produced memorable and heroic moments in New Orleans Saints history.

  • Tom Dempsey’s 63-yard field goal to defeat the Detroit Lions
  • Brian Milne’s fumble recovery against the St. Louis Rams to secure the franchise’s first playoff victory
  • Garrett Hartley’s field goal to win the NFC Championship
  • Steve Gleason’s blocked punt in the Return to the Dome game

Will the 2018 season create some more special memories from the Saints special teams?

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New Orleans Junior Journalism program student Chris Taylor – a sophomore at St. John the Baptist Parish STEM Magnet High School – will focus this season on the Saints special teams, from the players trying to make the final roster to all the big plays and players that impact games in various ways.

Chris and JRNOLA board member and mentor Jim Rapier were at the Saints preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

HAPPY RETURNS

  • Despite the Saints 20-15 loss to the Cardinals in Friday’s game, the Saints special teams had its highlights.
  • One aspect of special teams the Saints are looking to improve this season is the return game, and in their preseason home opener that did just that.

STANDOUTS:

  • Veteran returner Brandon Tate had a great opening kickoff return of 40 yards. Tate showed his versatility in the return game by returning a punt in the first quarter for 8 yards and appeared a step away from gaining more.
  • Boston Scott, a 6th-round draft pick out of Louisiana Tech, also is pushing for roster spot as a returner and at running back. Scott didn’t disappoint against the Cardinals. He came in the second quarter and his first return was for 28 yards, then he improved to 29 on his next return and 30 yards on his final return and finished with a 29-yard average.
  • Veteran wide receiver TommyLee Lewis also was the returner on punts and finished with one return for 3 yards.
  • When looking at the Saints return game, the focus leans toward the return yardage, but the less recognized blockers provided the Saints returners with some running room against the Arizona.
  • Some of the players on the return team that contributed to the positive return rate included Alex Anzalone, Arthur Maulet, Zach Wood, Chris Banjo, Craig Robertson, Jayrone Elliott, J.T. Gray, Josh Huff, Vonn Bell.
  • Overall, Saints coach Sean Payton seemed pleased with the special teams play, saying, “I thought our special teams played pretty well tonight.”

ON THE HORIZON: Next week the Saints look to bounce back in Los Angeles against the Chargers. Some special teams players to keep an eye on include Tate and Scott, as they continue to battle for the starting kick return position, including field time for special teams aces Banjo and Justin Hardee.


Follow @WeAreJRNOLA for updates on social media, or visit JRNOLA.org after every Saints game to see What’s So Special?!