From Billy Cundiff, Olindo Mare, Martin Gramatica, Taylor Mehlhaff, John Kasay, Garrett Hartley and Kai Forbath, among others, the list of kickers with the New Orleans Saints under coach Sean Payton has been long.
After two seasons on the roster, however, it is pretty clear the Saints are happy with Wil Lutz.
Lutz, who replaced Forbath in the days leading to Week 1 of the 2016 regular season, views the current job security as his biggest takeaway from his rookie season to now.
“I think the biggest difference for me is knowing that I’m the guy here,” Lutz said. “Last year, I had no idea just where I was going to land.
“The comfortability of your teammates, the locker room, your operation and just going through the tribulations that we went through last year. The ups and downs, I think you just grow mentally as a pro. That was the biggest thing for me.”
It wasn’t always easy for Lutz in his rookie year.
He entered the league as an undrafted free agent out of Georgia State with the Baltimore Ravens but found himself behind All-Pro kicker Justin Tucker before being waived.
The Saints signed Lutz three days after establishing the initial 53-man roster and cut ties with Forbath, who will kick against his former team Sunday when the Saints face the Minnesota Vikings.
Lutz had a shaky debut in Week 1, going 2 of 4 on field goal attempts, and he experienced three kicks blocks — two on field goal attempts, one on an extra point — on the 2016 season.
But Lutz finished his rookie campaign on a high note by connecting on 33 consecutive successful kicks, which included 13 field goals and 20 extra points.
He set the team’s rookie record with the longest made field goal (57 yards), and was named the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week in Week 6, where he kicked a game-winning field goal against the Carolina Panthers, and Week 8.
Lutz ensured to carry over the momentum, lessons learned from the blocked kicks and second-half consistency from 2016 to 2017.
“It’s just repeating my motion all the time and knowing that what I’m doing is getting the job done versus last year, obviously, there was a little confidence issues with that,” he said. “But you go back to last year, most of the kicks I made the height was fine. It’s just those very few that it wasn’t. So, this year it’s a consistency thing.”
Punter Thomas Morstead agreed when asked about what he’s seen as areas of growth in Lutz from 2016.
“No. 1, his mindset,” Morstead said. “I would say he is very mentally tough in the realm of being a specialist and handling adversity or adverse scenarios, which I think is something that is probably a little innate, but can be worked on. And then No. 2 is he kicks the ball straight; that’s a great quality to have as a field goal kicker.”
Lutz has more than answered the call in his second season, connecting on 31 of 35 field goal attempts, including 4 of 5 from 50-plus yards, and booted a game-winning field goal in Week 11 against Washington.