NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - The Saints’ search for versatility and specialized talent has been on display all offseason with a contract extension for Taysom Hill, the drafting of Tommy Stevens and most recently, the signing of Margus Hunt.
Hunt enters his eighth season in the NFL with experience at both defensive end and defensive tackle but it is his special teams talent that stands out. He was recruited to Southern Methodist University out of Estonia as a track & field prospect but transitioned to football and made a name for himself immediately on special teams. He blocked seven kicks as a freshman and finished with 17 for his career.
“That was one of my stronger suits in college, it died down a little bit in the league because of the regulations and everything on field goal," Hunt told reporters Monday via video conference. "The guys are obviously way bigger so the gaps are a little bit tighter so it was a little more challenging but I feel like I’ve been able to create pressure in the kickers’ faces and if not me, somebody else will have an opportunity to make a play but I wouldn’t say that it has been completely unsuccessful but it’s hard and especially on those plays, you never know. I always go 100% on those plays because you never know if somebody will take a play off and that might be one of those plays where we get through.”
Hunt is 6′8″, 295 pounds, so he has the size to clog the middle of the line of scrimmage but as exhibited by the 4.60-second forty-yard dash he ran at the NFL Combine in 2013, he also has a rare mix of athleticism that gives coaches flexibility. In 2018 with Indianapolis, he started a career-best 15 games but his playing time dipped in 2019 as he struggled to find a fit “It’s just the nature of the business. I didn’t have the most successful start last year, to be honest, so they decided to make some moves and put me in a better position for making plays. They took me out of the interior nose tackle position and put me back at the three-technique which was a better spot for me anyway, in my opinion as well. I understand their process behind it so I didn’t have anything to really argue about with the decision because at that point, stats weren’t that good, I couldn’t help the team in my position I was in so they were able to put me in a better position to obviously help the defensive line and help the team. It did help the team a little bit, it’s just that then I was in a backup role so my reps were limited for every game.”
Regardless of defensive contribution, Hunt’s addition will provide Special Teams Coordinator Darren Rizzi another asset to work with in trying to make impact plays in the kicking game. Rizzi’s first season saw two of his players, Wil Lutz and Deonte Harris, named to the Pro Bowl and four different players got their hands on opposition punt attempts.