Monday, June 22, 2009

Saints Nation: Could Kevin Houser's Job be in Jeopardy?

Kevin Houser has been the Saints long snapper on punting and kicking units for 9 seasons. Since being drafted in the 7th round out of Ohio State in 2000, Houser has played in every single game for the Saints. He's been a reliable member of the team, and his name rarely ever comes up because he's been so consistent. As a long snapper your duty is taken for granted a lot of times and your failures are magnified. It's remarkable that in 9 long seasons, Houser has never made a critical error that's put him under the microscope. Houser is currently the longest tenured Saint, and is also a leader in the locker room. Per the dialog I had with Times-Picayne reporter Jeff Duncan (which you can read HERE), Houser is "a great all-around guy and, as the most-tenured Saint on the roster, someone that others can go to for advice and information. He's a registered financial broker and helps a lot of players with business tips". Without question the Saints count on him, and he is in integral part of the team.

The competition that Houser is facing this season is a little trickier than years past. Backup defensive end Rob Ninkovich was a 5th round draft pick for the Saints in 2006 and he also has long snapping ability. Ninkovich was released in 2007 and had a stint with the Miami Dolphins before coming back to the team that drafted him last year. The advantage Ninkovich has, first and foremost, is that he can play a position besides long snapper and help the team in other areas, so the Saints wouldn't have to sacrifice a roster spot on a guy who exclusively long snaps (like Houser) if they gave Ninkovich the job. While Houser has beaten out Ninkovich for the job before, this season is different because starting defensive ends Will Smith and Charles Grant are both suspended for the first 4 games due to a failed drug test (story here). The Saints are thus extremely thin at defensive end early in the season and will need all the depth they can find. Even if Ninkovich gets beaten out at long snapper, he'll still have a chance to make the squad through the first 4 games at end. The danger for Houser is that if the competition is close enough in training camp between the two long snappers, the coaching staff may opt to give the job to Ninkovich and take advantage of his versatility in case they get any thinner at end. Houser will need to prove that he's that much better as a long snapper, though admittedly it's something he's more than capable of showing.

Should be interesting to see how this plays out. One thing is for sure: should the Saints release Kevin Houser, he will not take long to land another job as an NFL team's long snapper. He is that good, and the Saints would be making a mistake letting him go.