Saints Nation: Training Camp Position Battle Preview – Specialists

Special teams is relatively stable and shouldn't feature much competition. In fact, the only battle is at kicker, since the Saints aren't even bothering bringing more than one punter and one long snapper to camp. That kind of stability is nice, as special teams is largely a stable unit. And while it won't be mentioned in the player presentation below, who ends up the holder is a bit of a question mark. It would be Luke McCown if he wins the backup role, but if not it would likely revert to Thomas Morstead who would take on the added duty. Don't forget Isa Abdul-Quddus, Rafael Bush and possibly some others as well, who are valuable parts of the gunning unit. And of course, Sproles and Cadet should be the primary return guys once the season starts. Here are the players:

Garrett Hartley: With a long term contract in tow and a reasonably solid season last year, you'd figure his roster spot is pretty secure. And it should be. But the high talk of his competition has to be a bit scary for Hartley. I do expect him to win the kicker battle, though. If he can beat a veteran John Kasay who was rock solid in 2011, he should be able to beat a rookie. He gave the Saints 16 healthy games last year for the first time, making at a higher than 80% clip. I'll take it.

Jose Maltos: The rookie from Mexico both punted and kicked for his college's football team all four years. Sean Payton says he has a "live leg" and his "get off times are good", so the coaching staff is impressed. I actually think this is a formidable challenge for Hartley and the Saints will go with the best kicker. That said, because of Hartley's cap hit I think Maltos is going to have to blow Hartley out of the water to win the job. If they're about even, like Hartley and Kasay last year, I just don't see Maltos winning the job. He'll have his chance though, and this isn't a foregone conclusion.

Thomas Morstead: He's a Pro Bowler, he's outstanding and keeping his net average extremely high, and he's a top notch kickoff man too. He's an incredibly valuable part of the team and one of its best players. 

Courtney Roby: The captain and main gunner should be back on the 53 man roster yet again. The Saints made the mistake of cutting him once only to bring him back a couple weeks later when he was thankfully still available. They won't make that mistake again. He's a mainstay on this squad and this is his 5th season as a Saint. He's terrific at tracking the ball in open space and finding the ball carrier. Countless plays he's made in his half decade with the team. He was also the primary kick returner before Sproles joined the team, so that's a role he could fill in a pinch too. He's one of the most underrated players on the team.

Justin Drescher: He's come out of nowhere to have the long snapper job on lock down. The Saints are very high on him in that spot, and both Hartley and Morstead are very comfortable with him. He's also a lock.

Prediction: The only question is how the Hartley vs. Maltos head to head plays out. I think that is 75%-25% in favor of Hartley because of A. his contract and B. the fact that it's going to be tough to grossly outperform him. That's what it will take. If Maltos seems marginally better, I don't think that'll be enough. So I'm going with Hartley as the kicker, but that's the one battle you'll want to keep an eye on. 

Your thoughts?

Andrew Juge

About Andrew Juge

I like the Saints. A lot.