NEW ORLEANS, La. – The New Orleans Saints Special Teams unit is regarded as one of the best that the NFL had to offer in 2019.
Saints Kicker, Will Lutz, finished top 3 in almost every statistical category for NFL Kickers in 2019.
Lutz was also selected to the NFL Pro Bowl along with Saints Wide Receiver and Kick Return Specialist, Deonte Harris.
Harris finished the 2019 season with almost 1,000 total return yards and a punt return for a touchdown.
He made a name for himself in the 2019 NFL Preseason as one of the more explosive return men in the league and that easily translated to the regular season.
Despite a Pro Bowl nod in 2019, Saints’ Special Teams Coordinator Darren Rizzi says that Deonte Harris still has a lot of room to grow as a return specialist.
Here is what Rizzi said about Harris’ potential:
Rizzi says, “I think I say this all the time. I think people look at me like I am crazy, but I think Deonte can actually really improve a lot. He made some bad decisions early in the season. His ball security wasn’t great. He made some bad decisions in terms of when to field the ball, (and) when not to field the ball. Those are things he got better at as a year went on, but I certainly think he is not a finished product yet. So I think he can actually really make some more strides. We know he has the ability, that is obviously a no-brainer. He is very dangerous with the ball in his hand, but I think now (he’s) refining his return game.”
In the 2020 NFL Draft, the Saints traded up into the 7th round to draft Mississippi State Quarterback, Tommy Stevens.
Stevens’ build and skill set are very similar to current Saints Quarterback, Taysom Hill.
After the impact that Hill had on Special Teams early in his career, special teams coaches are not ruling out the possibility of Stevens spending some time with the special teams unit.
“He obviously got the size, he obviously has got great speed. I know from meeting with them now on these virtual meetings, he is a very intelligent player. And so here is a guy that’s got all the quote unquote tools to work with, from my perspective. To answer the second part of your question, I think you look back like Trace McSorley, of the Baltimore Ravens, or some other quarterbacks that are now, if they are not going to be maybe the starter or even the number two, a lot of teams are now kind of copycating that, because of what Taysom’s (Hill) done,” says Rizzi.
The Assistant Special Teams Coordinator for the New Orleans Saints, Phil Galiano, was on the Penn State coaching staff when Tommy Stevens was competing for the starting quarterback position there.
Stevens also saw snaps at Running Back and Wide Receiver before transferring to Mississippi State.
Galiano says that the versatility that he saw first-hand from Stevens let him know that he would be a valuable asset for the Saints to acquire in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Galiano says, “he was always a guy that (was athletic), he’s big, he’s fast, he’s physical, he’s super smart. He’s super tough. I always knew (he) could play special teams for us. And he’s an extremely hard worker and he fits everything that we want here. So we’re really excited and I’m excited to be able to get the work with him once we can get back on the field.”