Saints Nation: Defensive and Special Teams Player Grades @ Falcons

You would think holding an opponent to 13 points would mean you were utterly dominant, right? Yet somehow the Falcons had 91 yards rushing at 4.1 yards a clip and were 30-39 passing for 292 yards. Must have been a ton of turnovers then, right? Nope, just one. They must have been stuffed on 3rd down then, right? Nope, they were a totally respectable 6 for 12. Penalties must have killed them? They only had 3 all game. I guess the only explanation is the turnover, the missed field goal and a relenting pass rush that sacked Matt Ryan 5 times. I guess that's all it takes to be a good defense. That, and good red zone defense. On to the grades…

Cam Jordan: A for the game (3.09 for the season) The dude is just having a monster season. He did have a personal foul which costs him the A+ but otherwise he was in Matt Ryan's face all day. He had 6 tackles, 2.5 sacks and a tipped ball. He unquestionably deserves a trip to the Pro Bowl. I never imagined he would ever be close to this good, but he is a star. The Falcons simply could not block him.

Akiem Hicks: A (2.94) He gets an A for the second consecutive week. He also narrowly misses an A+ due to a missed tackle where he had Antone Smith all wrapped up around the line of scrimmage, and a sack that should have been flagged as a personal foul. Otherwise, like Jordan he was in Ryan's face the entire game. He was as good against the run as he was pass rushing. Hicks, like Jordan, has become a complete player that can do anything. He's just playing at an extremely high level right now. He had 8 tackles and 1.5 sacks.

Brodrick Bunkley: B- (2.78) He was physical and played the run pretty well. He finished with 1 tackle but was very active in the trenches playing hard.

John Jenkins: B (2.70) He somehow ended the game with no tackles but played a lot in the second half and was excellent at collapsing the interior pocket. He was around Ryan on at least a couple sacks getting in on the fun. The Falcons had a really hard time blocking him and he was a major disruption.

Tom Johnson: B- (2.29) He had 3 tackles and was active but he seemed to always be a little slow in pursuit.

Glenn Foster: B- (2.46) He had a tackle has well as a nice QB hurry on Ryan that forced an incompletion. He also redirected Ryan into a sack once. He left the game due to an apparent knee injury.

Junior Galette: B- (2.79) Like Jenkins he had no tackles despite constantly getting pressure. His edge pressure on numerous occasions forced Matt Ryan to step up into a hit. It's really unlucky he didn't get a sack in this game because his pressure was constant.

David Hawthorne: C+ (3.00) He had 6 tackles but he missed a few as well and didn't do a great job in coverage. It was an up and down game for him.

Curtis Lofton: C+ (2.85) Like Hawthorne he had a high tackle total (9) but he also missed some tackles and was beaten in coverage on Tony Gonzalez a couple of times.

Parys Haralson: B (2.52) The run stuffer by trade held his block well, had two tackles, and even contributed a half sack.

Keyunta Dawson: A (2.56) He had 2 tackles and a half sack. He brought a tremendous amount of edge pressure when he was in and he caused a fumble that would create the only turnover of the game. That was probably the game's biggest play. He's quickly making a name for himself despite being a midseason nobody pickup.

Keenan Lewis: B (2.94) He was primarily responsible for manning up on Roddy White, and White finished with 2 catches for 24 yards. Enough said. Though, one of those was a 3rd and 10 conversion where the coverage was soft. Otherwise Lewis was blanketing his man most of the day. He had 4 tackles.

Corey White: C- (2.43) The Falcons went after him mercilessly all game long. It reminded me of Patrick Robinsonlast year. He led the team in tackles with 10 because the ball kept coming his way. The fact that rookie Darius Johnson was the one roasting him so badly is most concerning. He was also flagged for pass interference once, though I thought that was a bad call. He saves his grade a little bit by falling on the fumble though, and doing a good job of securing the recovery. Still, if he remains the starter that's a big concern moving forward if he can't play better in coverage. He was replaced a couple times, once for a play by Rod Sweeting (who played one snap so I didn't grade him), and seemed to get banged up at one point.

Chris Carr: C- (2.21) The lone play that stands out was a 3rd and 5 where he was easily beaten for a first down. He had one tackle.

Kenny Vaccaro: B (2.57) He wasn't great in coverage and to my surprise he was much more in the slot and much less on Gonzalez in this one. He was a tremendous help in run support, thanks to playing around the line of scrimmage, though. He had 9 tackles and a defended pass.

Roman Harper: B (2.92) He was very active in this game and pretty good overall. He also had 9 tackles and held his own when on Tony Gonzalez. He seems healthy and recovered.

Malcolm Jenkins: B (2.74) He jumped a route of Gonzalez perfect and just couldn't hang onto the football for an interception. Too bad, he really should have had that one. He had 5 tackles and never came close to getting beat over the top. Matt Ryan didn't even try.

Rafael Bush: B (2.64) He just had two tackles but he has nice speed and when he finds the ball he can lay some punishing hits. For him to stop Steven Jackson dead in his tracks at the line of scrimmage is impressive.


Garrett Hartley: B+ (2.88) He was two for two on extra points and made his only field goal attempt, a medium pressure 41 yarder. He didn't hit it great, though, as it kind of knuckled in and was kind of a line drive, he's fortunate it wasn't blocked. Anyway, he did his job.

Thomas Morstead: B+ (3.46) He had 4 punts for a 49.5 yard average, but one was a touchback. His net was still a solid 42.0, and he had a punt inside the 20. All four of his kickoffs were touchbacks.

Travaris Cadet: C (2.60) He returned one kickoff 20 yards and one punt zero yards. His fair catches on punts did not feel secure. He played a little offense, too, but only had one reception for 2 yards to show for it.


My Defensive Player of the Game: Akiem Hicks

My Special Teams Player of the Game: Thomas Morstead

Andrew Juge

About Andrew Juge

I like the Saints. A lot.


Saints Nation: Defensive and Special Teams Player Grades @ Falcons

I remain disgusted that this defense could play so well for really the first time all season and be rewarded by 5 interceptions from Drew Brees. The coverage in particular was outstanding even if the Saints were helped by some drops. To hold the Falcons to 1 for 11 on 3rd down is positively incredible, so major kudos to the Saints' defense and Steve Spagnuolo. And you know what? As painful as that loss was at least the defense for one week this year was a joy to watch. They really played great. So while that game hurts and it sucked, I can honestly say that after that opening drive I enjoyed watching the defense play. Make the jump for the grades.

Will Smith: C (2.42) He generated a little pass rush, but not much. He finished with just 2 tackles and his best play was a stretch run with Michael Turner in the red zone where he pursued well and met him for a loss. Otherwise, not a great game.

Cameron Jordan: A- (2.61) Excellent showing by Cam who mixed fantastic run defense with a good pass rush. He's coming into his own and starting to become a player I can see being a legitimate quality NFL starter. I love his hustle, the fact that he's pretty complete as an end, and that he keeps improving. He had 5 tackles and a sack.

Turk McBride: C+ (2.00) He unloaded on Matt Ryan a couple of times right as he released the ball and was victim of a couple holds that weren't flagged. He was not great against the run.

Martez Wilson: C (2.36) It's weird but the times he was brought in you figured he'd blitz and the Saints mostly dropped him into coverage. He did a pretty good job there but had a quiet game.

Sedrick Ellis: C+ (2.08) On the opening play of the game he embarrassed the rookie guard Peter Konz and hit Matt Ryan as he was throwing the football. The result of the play should have been an interception. He was solid pass rushing, creating some pressure and was able to knock down Ryan one other time. He was a non factor against the run. He has been playing slightly better as of late.

Broderick Bunkley: B- (2.30) Solid against the run yet again, where he had a tackle around the line of scrimmage and drew a holding call. He did a good job in the trenches which forced the Falcons to attack the perimeter with runs to be successful. He did get blocked out of a couple plays though that were makeable though. He also tipped a pass.

Akiem Hicks: C+ (2.39) He had one tackle and a tipped pass. He continues to be active and show good physical ability. He also had a good pass rush on a play where he got to Ryan, but got away with hitting him in the helmet which should have been a 15 yard penalty.

Jonathan Vilma: C (2.00) He's so tough to grade because he does some good things and some poor ones. Ultimately what is most obvious is he's physically just not the player he used to be, we know that. Plays he used to make in his sleep he just can't make anymore. He's not fast enough, and that results in him diving at player's legs only to see them escape. He makes up for that a little bit with smarts, and his play recognition was good. He put himself in an opportunity to make plays, but didn't more often than not. He finished with 4 tackles including one for a loss on a stretch running play. I gave his grade a boost for a very head's up time out preceding a field goal when the Saints had 12 men on the field.

Curtis Lofton: B- (2.78) He gave up the touchdown reception to Tony Gonzalez despite pretty good coverage and a decent job stripping at the football on the way down. He led the Saints with 8 tackles, including one for a loss, and a defended pass. He had a fantastic play taking on a blocker on a screen pass that could have gone for nice yardage if he didn't make an outstanding tackle. That play merited a rain of boos from the Georgia Dome. Overall he was very good tackling and attacking the ball carrier, and so so in coverage.

David Hawthorne: C+ (2.10) He had 3 tackles, most in pursuit, but he tackled physically and held up ok against the run. A quiet performance overall with no major mistakes.

Jonathan Casillas: B-  (2.19) Did a good job as the nickel backer in coverage. Had 2 tackles and covered well.

Jabari Greer: B+ (2.40) Largely responsible for coverage Roddy White, he held him to just 1 catch for 20 yards thanks to terrific coverage. He finished with 2 tackles and a defended pass. He was helped out by a decent pass rush, poor accuracy by Ryan and a drop by White, but overall a solid performance.

Patrick Robinson: B (2.03) Like Greer he did a great job on Julio Jones. Jones had 5 catches for 48 yards but Robinson made none of them easy as he was tight and physical in coverage. He had 3 tackles. He's over 2.00 for the first time this season thanks to a pretty good 5 game stretch.

Elbert Mack: B- (3.00) Pretty solid in coverage once again, the Saints should have played this guy much sooner in the season. To me he's clearly their best nickel cover guy. He had 2 tackles.

Malcolm Jenkins: C+ (2.42) He missed a golden opportunity for an interception on the very first play of the game getting boxed out by Gonzalez after a tipped ball. In 2009 you know Darren Sharper comes up with that ball. He also whiffed horribly trying to tackle Michael Turner on that same drive twice leading to gashing runs. After that he was fine, and he had textbook one on one coverage downfield with Harry Douglas to knock the ball down. Offensive pass interference could have been called there. He had 3 tackles.

Roman Harper: C (2.39) The times he was on Tony Gonzalez he held up ok in coverage. Against the run he missed tackles that could have kept the Falcons' more in check. He did have 5 tackles featuring good physicality.

Rafael Bush: A- (3.05) The Saints picked themselves up a pretty good player with Bush. We already knew he was outstanding on special teams, but now we're seeing he can play defense too. He was good in coverage, stepped up and made some nice tackles in run support, and had good command of where he should be on defense. I was impressed. He had 4 tackles, and gave the Saints a little hope late with a fantastic strip/recovery of Michael Turner. He then raced to the end zone but was sadly deemed down by contact.


Garrett Hartley: A (2.86) He gets this A mostly for a critical 52 yard bomb that he nailed. A fantastic kick there that should hopefully give him some confidence. He was perfect on the day with a short field goal and an extra point as well.

Thomas Morstead: C (3.22) His net was only 37 yards on 4 punts, which for him is sub standard, though he put Patrick in a position to pin the Falcons down at the one and didn't get helped out by his teammate as it went for a touchback. His kickoffs were deep, though some were returned. He did do a good job of pinning the Falcons inside the 20 with backspin on one punt. His long punt was 52 yards, but it went off the side of his foot and was a poor kick and he was fortunate to get a nice roll from it.

Travaris Cadet: D (2.27) His stubbornness taking the ball out on kickoffs from very deep is maddening. He did it four times and barely got past the 20 only once. He averaged 23.5 yards on 4 returns and consistently gave the Saints very poor field position.

Will Herring: B- (1.95) He downed two punts. I wanted to give his GPA a little boost since I've been so hard on him this season.

Johnny Patrick: C- (1.81) Had a chance at an athletic play jumping and pinning the Falcons down at the 1 yard line, but his right foot was on the end zone line as he jumped up to make a play. In a game of inches, he lost on that one.


My Defensive Player of the Game: Rafael Bush

My Special Teams Player of the Game: Garrett Hartley

Andrew Juge

About Andrew Juge

I like the Saints. A lot.

Saints Nation: Defensive and Special Teams Player Grades @ Falcons

Here’s the defensive and special teams grades. They are really, really bad. Keep in mind that while, yes, they held Atlanta to 23 points, they were torched by Chris Redman.

Saints vs Falcons recap

Saints vs Falcons boxscore

Saints vs Falcons coverage

Will Smith: D+ (2.74) Smith was completely neutralized on his pass rushing attempts. I don’t know what teams are doing differently, but I sense they’re taking advantage of Grant’s nonexistent play to load up against Smith. Smith finished with 1 tackle on a nice hustle play downfield inside the Saints‘ 5 to tackle Tony Gonzalez from behind and save a touchdown. No matter, the Falcons would score on the next play. An extremely quiet day for the normally more active end.

Charles Grant: F (1.97) Congratulations, Charles, you’ve received my first official F of the season. It’s quite an impressive feat, actually, that of all the performances I’ve graded throughout the season Grant has been the only one bad enough to get this grade. It takes a true commitment to laziness, failure and apathy to pull this one off. To get an F despite playing on a 13-0 team is even more impressive. Wow, Charles, you’ve outdone yourself. At one point Grant was beaten around the edge and showed decent pursuit, only to make his one and only tackle around the line of scrimmage as the play was held up on the sideline, I was almost disappointed. I thought to myself, “man that was a decent play Charles, are you going to pull off another D-?”. But screw it, I’m done with the guy. He deserves an F. He’s lining up pitiful performance after another, and on top of that he’s rewarding the opposition with personal foul penalties and free first downs into field goal range. It’s bad enough that he’s being manhandled and completely useless, but he’s got to cost us 15 yards too? Saintsational mentioned he’s not hungry. I beg to differ, he’s obviously very hungry, have you seen his stomach? His GPA is plummeting faster than the stock market was in March. Pass rushing? Forget about it. I’m telling you all right now that the chance of this guy getting another sack this season are zero. Run defense, his supposed strength? Forget about it. He’s now too fat, too slow and too effortless to make a play. Am I too hard on the guy? Probably. But enough is enough. He’s one of the highest paid players on the team and he has sucked. Am I even allowed to say that? Saintsational might dock my salary.

Bobby McCray: D (1.97) Nice GPA, Bobby. You guys might notice that McCray’s GPA is dangerously close to someone else I’ve been ragging on. So close in fact, could they be the same player? McCray is getting less and less playing time in this defense. I know he’s listed on the injury report and limited in practice each week. Is he too hurt to play? He’s regressed majorly from a season ago. When he did get in against Atlanta, Redman had all the time in the world. No tackles for McCray.

Anthony Hargrove: C- (2.31) Hargrove had decent push up the middle, and had a nice tackle against the run. That was his only tackle, though, despite extended playing time. Ultimately, the defensive line as a whole got absolutely no pressure on Redman and they were manhandled by the Atlanta pass blocking depsite the fact that they were battling numerous injuries.

Sedrick Ellis: B- (2.70) Ellis wasn’t great, but he was much better than his counterparts. He has still seemed rusty to me, and at one point I saw him walk gingerly off the field. I don’t think his knee is close to 100%. One thing is undeniable, though, and that’s that even when Sedrick Ellis isn’t playing lights out, he’s not giving up. Same came be said for Smith, and effort goes for a lot. Sometimes good things happen to you and plays find their way to you when you go out there and make some effort. Ellis finished with 3 tackles, and he got a borderline “sack” when he stopped Chris Redman around the line of scrimmage. That play was nice, though, because it forced Atlanta to kick a field goal on a 3rd and 2 play.

Remi Ayodele: B (2.31) Ayodele did an excellent job again clogging up the middle and limiting Atlanta’s ability to run the football with a skeleton crew. He just had one tackle, but his impact was evident and useful. He’s lined up a couple straight solid performances, so he’s starting to grow on me. Atlanta finished with 89 yards rushing, but that didn’t stop them from passing almost at will on the Saints.

Scott Shanle: C- (2.59) It’s not that he was particularly bad in this game, it’s that he wasn’t really involved. This was a hard performance to grade because I couldn’t really point to any things that Shanle did that disappointed me. You guys all know by now I’m a bigger fan of Shanle’s than the average Saints fan. I always have been. Just 2 tackles though, and he was very quiet.

Jonathan Vilma: A- (2.98) I was upset with Vilma for allowing Jason Snelling to slip into the middle of the field for a 38 yard gain on the opening drive. Vilma took a bad angle on the play and showed poor speed catching up. Beyond that mistake, though, Vilma was pretty solid throughout. Then, when the game was on the line, he went from pretty solid to instrumental. First, Vilma intercepted a pass and set up what should have been the game killer. Oh, the offense couldn’t put it away? No problem. On the next Falcon drive, Vilma hit Jason Snelling on 4th and 2 on a pass over the middle and blasted him backwards, stopping him short of the first down marker and ending the game. Make no mistake, despite a very poor performance by the offense, special teams and coaching staff down the stretch, Jonathan Vilma won this game for us. with those two plays. He finished with 7 tackles.

Randall Gay: B+ (2.67) Gay was by far the most performant player in the defensive backfield. He finished with 8 tackles. He was solid and physical in coverage, either breaking up passes or making sure tackles when he gave up a play. He also assisted his teammates in tackles, often cleaning up their mistakes. Some of you will remember the woeful performance Gay had against the Rams, but against the Falcons he showed how he can handle himself when he’s not lined up against a blazing speed receiver. When used to his strengths, that is: playing in the slot, the box and close to the line of scrimmage covering underneath routes, Gay impresses. He deserves credit as well for blowing up an end around to Eric Weems for a 12 yard loss.

Malcolm Jenkins: C- (2.63) Malcolm made strides after last week, but he’s still struggling to come into his own. I wonder if his destiny will be replacing Darren Sharperat free safety like we all speculated about after the draft. He’s an aggressive and physical player with good instincts, but I wonder if he has the foot speed to play corner as well asTracy Porter and Jabari Greer. You could tell against Atlanta he was giving more cushion to the receivers, most likely because he’s lost a little confidence after getting beat deep. He finished with 4 tackles, but his coverage and tackling wasn’t impeccable.

Roman Harper: D (2.87) The recipe for moving the ball by and large the past two weeks has been to find Roman Harper on passing plays. He’s been victimized in the passing game and he’s really struggled. You can say the absence of Greer and Porter hurt the Saints’ ability to play pass defense, but Harper and Sharper’s play has been most suspect of late. You can’t blame the poor pass defense on the corners this week nearly as much as the safeties. The Saints dialed up the blitz early and often, leaving Harper on an island often, and they paid for it almost every time. He finished with 5 tackles.

Darren Sharper: D- (2.89) Sharper had his worst game of the season, by far. He flirted with an F as well. He bit badly on a double move by Michael Jenkins and was victimized by 50 yard touchdown pass. Jenkins beat Sharper deep to get wide open on another play, but fortunately for Sharper the pass was overthrown because that would have been 14 points on Darren. Sharper looked very slow and vulnerable. This was not the same Darren Sharper that discovered the fountain of youth earlier in the season. He wasn’t particularly good coming up and making tackles, either. He finished with 3 tackles. Let’s just hope he can rebound from this disastrous performance.

Troy Evans: B (1.92) Evans was the biggest surprise of the day. He was good against the run, and while he wasn’t great against the pass he was at least active and around the ball. Evans is never going to blow anyone away with his play, but he played within the defense and tackled well. If he can play like this while Fujita is out, he won’t be the defense’s problem. He finished with an impressive 5 tackles.

DeMario Pressley: B- (2.75) He finished with 1 tackle, doing a good job on a running play. He had limited action, but once again looked promising when he was in.

Pierson Prioleau: C (2.43) Prioleau never makes major mistakes and you can tell he’s a Gregg Williams favorite because he’s a high IQ football player. That said, the guy gives too much cushion to his receivers in an effort to limit the damage. He finished with 1 tackle.

Mike McKenzie: C+ (2.22) McKenzie played a decent amount in the second half and he was picked on by Redman with mixed results. At one point Roddy White was wide open and McKenzie was fortunate that Redman’s pass lacked accuracy because he was beat. That said, McKenzie showed good spirit and energy out there. He had one tackle, but more importantly he showed he still has that fire in his belly.

Thomas Morstead: A- (3.05) He only got to punt once, and it was fair caught after a pedestrian 35 yard effort. He earned his keep this time with consistent depth on kickoffs. Of the 6 he hit, 4 were kneeled for touchbacks. Good thing, because Eric Weems is a dangerous returner and he was able to take one out for a 37 yard gain. Morstead has been incredibly valuable in setting opponents up with bad field position.

Courtney Roby: C (2.92) A plain performance from Roby who averaged 19.5 yards on his two kick returns.

Garrett Hartley: C+ (3.00) Hartley hit a big field goal from 28 yards out to break a 23-23 tie. That ended up being the difference, so give him credit. That said, are the Saints incapable of finding a guy that doesn’t miss extra points? That’s now 3 on the season and this is really starting to get ridiculous. What’s more, that 23-23 tie I speak of was thanks to the shank. Hartley was also perfect on a 33 yarder earlier in the game, but the missed extra point is flat out inexcusable. While the fake field goal wasn’t his fault, I wonder if the call was partially due to the coaching staff’s lack of confidence in Hartley? The pathetic crew of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman mentioned that he was “big time struggling” and “couldn’t make a kick in warmups”. Not sure how accurate that is, considering he was 4-5 last week and his only miss was an unrealistic 58 yarder in bad conditions. Perhaps they were basing their statements on what they saw in the pregame. For what it’s worth, I also read a Jeff Duncan tweet that mentioned Hartley nailing a 58 yarder in warmups that would have been good from 60. The bottom line is I am not asking to Hartley to be perfect, but I do expect him to be perfect on PATs.

My Defensive Player of the Game: Jonathan Vilma
My Special Teams Player of the Game: Thomas Morstead

Andrew Juge

About Andrew Juge

I like the Saints. A lot.