Strong start for Grupe highlights Saints, Broncos comparisons through one week

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Lou Hedley and Blake Grupe
Saints rookie specialists Lou Hedley and Blake Grupe enjoyed a solid start to their NFL careers for the Saints in week one (Photo: Parker Waters).

Dennis Allen’s second-year start as head coach of the New Orleans Saints went well. Sean Payton’s debut as head coach of the Denver Broncos did not go as well.

The Saints toughed out a 16-15 win over Tennessee. The Broncos let a 16-10 fourth quarter lead at home slip away in a 17-16 victory for the Las Vegas Raiders.

A pair of former Saints had productive days for Payton in Denver. Lil’Jordan Humphrey had two catches for 11 yards and a touchdown while Adam Trautman had five receptions for 34 yards. The difference in the game was the peformance of another former New Orleans player.

A missed extra point by ex-Saints kicker Wil Lutz, who also missed a 55-yard field goal attempt wide right, proved costly. Lutz did make a 24-yard field goal attempt and launch all but one of his kickoffs touchbacks. Lutz did execute well on a surprise onside kick to start the game but Denver was flagged for illegal touching which nullified a successful recovery.

Contrast that with Blake Grupe, whom the Saints chose over Lutz.

The rookie kicked off five times, all of which went for touchbacks. Grupe also nailed all three field goal attempts, including a 52 yarder, and made his only extra point try.

Clearly, Grupe costs less than Lutz. Certainly, the decision made by the Saints was based on confidence in Grupe and on value in return for Lutz.

Through one week, that decision looks pretty good.

Incidentally, Derek Carr’s replacement in Las Vegas, Jimmy Garoppolo, played well in a road win. He completed 20-of-26 passes for 200 yards and one interception with quarterback rating of 107.9.

Still, I would take Carr over Garoppolo. For one, Carr can stretch the field vertically while Garoppolo does not.

Against the Titans, Carr was under considerable pressure all afternoon but remained calm. He often stepped up and kept his eyes down the field to make successful throws. He even extended some plays by rolling right.

Carr is durable and dependable each weekend. Garoppolo is not.

With all due respect to Trautman and Humphrey, I will take the Saints’ tight ends and receivers over each of those players.

The Saints did pick up Tony Jones Jr. after Payton released him last month. Jones Jr. had one carry for five yards against Tennessee. Payton also signed former New Orleans wideout Marquez Callaway in the offseason but released him on August 29. Ironically, Callaway is now with the Raiders.

The connections between the Broncos and Saints are clear. The quarterback comparison between New Orleans and Las Vegas is also obvious.

Through one NFL regular season week, only Sean Payton is unhappy between the three. But there’s a long way to go.

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Ken Trahan


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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…

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