Say hello to the punter for the New Orleans Saints. The team waived rookie prospect Nolan Cooney on Tuesday during the second wave of roster cuts, meaning that Blake Gillikin has functionally won his training camp competition. Sean Payton hasn’t formally named Gillikin the starter, but unless the Saints bring in someone else for a look he’s now the only punter on the depth chart.
Gillikin first signed with the Saints as an undrafted free agent out of Penn State last year, arriving to New Orleans with nothing guaranteed beyond a $5,000 signing bonus. He spent his rookie year on injured reserve (stated to be a back issue) while working as Thomas Morstead’s understudy, learning the ropes from one of the most consistent punters in the NFL over the last decade. Those lessons helped him string together dependable results throughout training camp and two preseason games.
Sure, there was some writing on the wall. Gillikin had been working as the holder on field goal tries and point-after kicks. Interestingly, Cooney got the nod for kickoffs in both exhibition games, so that’s one area we haven’t seen Gillikin try out. He’s boomed a couple of punts for 60-plus yards so I don’t anticipate that being a problem for him. At any rate: the Saints held a true competition at punter, and the better player emerged victorious. Let’s see how Gillikin performs when the regular season kicks off in a few short weeks.