Well this is a little surprising. The New Orleans Saints are already bringing up newly-signed linebacker Cory Littleton from the practice squad for their Week 9 game with the Chicago Bears; it’s the first of three game-day elevations they can exercise before he’ll have to be signed to the 53-man roster.
And Littleton just signed with the Saints this week, replacing Jaylon Smith on the practice squad. Smith had left for a better opportunity to play with the Las Vegas Raiders after watching the first eight Saints games from the sidelines. So what gives? Why is Littleton dressing out in his first week after Smith was kept on the bench?
The answer lies in the kicking game. Over the summer Saints head coach Dennis Allen said that Smith would have to play special teams in order to get on the field with Demario Davis and Pete Werner on top of the depth chart, but that’s not something Smith has done much of. The middle linebacker logged just 31 snaps in the kicking game last season and he’s totaled 312 special teams snaps in his seven-year NFL career, limited to the field goal block unit and occasional looks on the punt returns squad; he didn’t play special teams in college at Notre Dame, either.
Now compare that to Littleton, who has logged 1,732 snaps on special teams in the NFL — an average of 247 snaps per year. He’s already played 104 snaps on special teams covering punts and kickoffs with the Houston Texans this season. With one of the Saints’ top special teamers out for this game (linebacker Ty Summers, dealing with a concussion and hamstring injury) they needed more help in the kicking game. So that opened the door for Littleton to immediately contribute. Let’s see how he performs in this opportunity on Sunday afternoon.