Coaches always talk about the three phases of the game - offense, defense, and special teams. But if we are being honest, special teams most of the time aren’t as important as the other two phases. However, when special teams do play a factor it usually plays a pretty big factor.
That could be the case this Sunday when the Tennessee Titans take on the New Orleans Saints. The Saints will have a rookie punter and kicker in this game. Their punter, Lou Hedley, is one of the most interesting stories in the NFL. He is a 30-year-old rookie from Australia. Hedley forced two muffed punts in the preseason. Rookie Kearis Jackson will most likely be returning punts in this one. The Titans definitely can’t afford a special teams turnover in a game that is expected to be really close.
The Saints kicker, Blake Grupe, is a rookie from Notre Dame. New Orleans traded veteran Will Lutz to the Denver Broncos after Grupe won the job this preseason. Grupe was 14 of 19 on field goal attempts last year for the Fighting Irish. Will the moment be too big for him if he is called on to hit a game-winner with time expiring? It could come down to that with the Saints as a 3-point favorite.
The Titans are also breaking in a new kicker, but of course, the circumstances are different with the new kicker being veteran Nick Folk. He’s seen the big moment. That won’t be an issue for him. The only question with him is what kind of range he has left. Folk turns 39 in November, but he was 4 of 5 from kicks beyond 50 last year.
Let me tell you what isn’t a question: The Titans have the best punter in the league in Ryan Stonehouse.