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Saints Nation: Defensive and Special Teams Player Grades @ Panthers

It's really sad to grade this game because the Saints held the Panthers to 10 points on the road before that final drive. The one run by DeAngelo Williams of 43 yards was costly, though. The Saints came incredibly close to pitching a perfect game defensively… and unfortunately for them anything short of perfect was going to be a loss with this amateur hour offense. On to the grades.

Cameron Jordan: A- for the game (3.07 for the season) Equally impressive against the run and rushing the passer, Jordan just continues to have a Pro Bowl season. Finally the Sean Payton era drafted a defensive player that is lights out. He really is getting better with every game and a complete player. He was tied for the team lead with 5 tackles and had a sack.

Akiem Hicks: A- (2.87) If you didn't get a chance to see his sack I recommend you go back and watch it. I have never seen someone dominate a player like that before. Two players, actually. He took his blocker into his sack and tackle of Cam Newton. He also led the team in tackles with 5, and had a sack. Like Jordan he had a complete game. What a tandem they have turned out to be, hopefully for many years to come.

Brodrick Bunkley: C+ (2.60) He was spelled by Jenkins a good bit even though I thought the run defense was better with Bunkley in there. He had 1 tackle and a quiet day, though.

John Jenkins: C (2.67) He was eaten up on the one big run by Williams and pushed aside to create the monster hole. Other than that play he did ok, but this was not a dominating performance by him by any means. He had 2 tackles, but does deserve credit for chasing down a screen pass and making the backside pursuit tackle. Great effort there for a nose tackle.

Tyrunn Walker: B- (2.67) He had one tipped ball and a tackle. He came in mostly in pass rushing situations and got good interior push for the most part.

Glenn Foster: C+ (2.37) He was credited with two hurries and also did a decent job rushing the passer. Nothing special to point out, though.

Junior Galette: B (2.80) He had two tackles, both for a loss, and his sack which got him to 10 on the season. I always knew if he played enough he was destined for a double digit sack campaign, I'm glad the Saints finally trusted him on the field. Over all it's been worth it and he's definitely gotten better in all areas.

David Hawthorne: C (2.83) On the 43 yard run he had a shot at plugging that huge hole and ran right into a blocker instead. Overall he's been a good player this year, though, and he did some nice things in this game too. He had 4 tackles.

Curtis Lofton: B+ (2.89) I thought he was great for the most part, and better in coverage than usual. He had 4 tackles and a beautiful delayed blitz that resulted in a sack.

Parys Haralson: C- (2.45) He had 1 tackle and really brought very little during his time on the field. He wasn't a factor in stopping the run and we know his strengths don't lie elsewhere.

Keenan Lewis: C+ (2.78) Not his best day in coverage as he was beat over the top by Steve Smith on a deep ball early. He was fortunate that Smith was injured and he didn't have to worry about him after that. He was also fortunate that the ball was sailing on Newton. Between that and the weather, the degree of difficulty in coverage was easy. But he can't be blamed for the final drive, the bal wasn't coming his way. He had 3 tackles.

Corey White: D+ (2.42) Not a very active day for White, but he was in coverage one on one for the game winning touchdown. Hard to give him a better grade when he was victimized when it mattered most and the game was on the line. He had 2 tackles.

Trevin Wade: C+ (2.33) Came in briefly as a reserve cover guy and did ok. He was fortunate on a LaFell drop, though.

Malcolm Jenkins: B- (2.56) He came up with a huge interception on the opening drive to put momentum back with the Saints. That was the team's first takeaway since the Falcons game and they really needed that. He finished with 3 tackles and pretty ok beyond that, but whiffed on a blitz on the final touchdown that could have maybe stopped Carolina.

Roman Harper: D (2.33) He continues to be an absolute liability in coverage and struggled on Greg Olsen. In particularly he gave up a play on the final drive that set up the Panthers to win. The addition of Vaccaro and emergence of Rafael Bush meant less Harper exposure on passing plays, but the absence of both forced him to do what he does poorly, and he was exposed. He had 3 tackles.

Kenny Vaccaro: C (2.67) The personal foul facemask and taunting penalties were classic Vaccaro, He's physical, aggressive and sometimes you're going to pay for it. He had 2 tackles before wrecking his ankle and he's likely done for the season now. This loss really hurts, as he had a great rookie campaign. I have to believe his presence on the field would have made a difference on that final touchdown drive.

Isa Abdul-Quddus: C- (2.50) Not a great day in over the top coverage for him, as he was always a step late to the ball. I feel like his ball hawking instincts from a year ago are gone, and he continues to take bad angles in run support. He had 2 tackles.


Shayne Graham: B (3.00) He was perfect on his two field goals and his extra point. The Saints didn't trust him from 52 yards out, though, and his kick height was very low on his short field goal, so he was fortunate it wasn't blocked.

Luke McCown: D (1.00) He threw one pass on a fake field goal of sorts, and airmailed Jimmy Graham badly. I feel bad giving him a bad grade based on one play, but he had single coverage there and should have at least put Graham in a position to have a chance with that ball.

Justin Drescher: C (2.00) Not that it would have mattered anyway, since Drescher blatantly held on the play anyway to prevent McCown from getting sacked. Since I haven't graded Drescher all season and he's been perfect on snaps for the most part, though, I'm giving him a C.

Thomas Morstead: B (3.33) He averaged 48.6 yards on 7 punts and a net of 42.9 which is very solid. He executed an onsides kick perfectly. Overall he did a fantastic job of neutralizing Ted Ginn who is as dangerous as they come as a return man. I'd give him an A if it weren't for that last punt that was way short and gave the Panthers manageable yardage. Sadly he saved his worst punt for when it mattered most.

Will Herring: B+ (2.50) He had a good open field tackle on Ted Ginn and downed a punt inside the 10.

Ramon Humber: B+ (2.70) He recovered the onsides kick and was alert in making sure the ball went 10 yards first. Give him credit that was a huge play.

Rod Sweeting: C+ (2.33) He missed an opportunity at pinning a punt inside the 5 by losing it in the air. He also had a nice tackle.


My Defensive Player of the Game: Cameron Jordan

My Special Teams Player of the Game: Ramon Humber

Andrew Juge

About Andrew Juge

I like the Saints. A lot.

Saints Nation: Defensive and Special Teams Player Grades @ Panthers

Grading the defense was tricky because some of the starters got action before giving way to their backups. None the less, see below the player grades for defense and special teams at Carolina. The letter grade represents the player’s individual performance in the game, the GPA represents the player’s cumulative effort for the season.

Will Smith: C (2.79) Smith finished with 1 tackle and wasn’t really a factor when he was in. He made no major errors, but he wasn’t really involved either. It seemed clear at the outset that the main instruction from Sean Payton was “don’t get hurt”. Smith didn’t apply much pressure on Matt Moore on the few passing downs he saw.

Charles Grant: D+ (2.08) I could essentially copy and paste what I just wrote for Will Smith, including the 1 tackle performance, and that would mostly describe Charles Grant’s limited action. Except, unlike Smith, he was responsible for a major error. On the second play of the game, Grant followed the line shift to the left, pushing Carolina’s right tackle hard in that direction. Problem is, the play was a counter and with terrible containment Grant paved a massive lane for Jonathan Stewart to hit the second level. As Stewart made his cut back, Grant had his back to the ballcarrier and was completely clueless as to what was happening. Needless to say, Stewart made one guy miss and raced 67 yards to paydirt.

Bobby McCray: B- (1.98) Bobby got extended action and while his pass rushing was largely mediocre, he actually did a pretty good job against the run. He finished with 2 tackles, including an impressive stop in the backfield.

Anthony Hargrove: A- (2.36) In my estimation, Hargrove was by far the best Saint of the day. He was energetic, active, and looked like one of the few players that actually wanted to be out there. You have to love the guy’s hustle. After Smith and Grant left the game, he also got extended action at his natural position of defensive end. No surprise, he looked a lot more comfortable and assertive in that role. He finished with a whooping 6 tackles, and he batted a 3rd down pass at the line of scrimmage to kill a drive. He was also in Matt Moore’s face numerous times, and even got a sack. On the sack play, he appeared to pull off the rarely seen but always praised sack-strip-recovery-score play, but replay proved Moore was down by contact. Regardless, a head’s up play by Hargrove and a really good game by the reserve pass rusher. He even did a very good job holding his own against the run, which has been his main struggle this season.

DeMario Pressley: B (2.67) Every time this guy comes in, he plays pretty well. I think the Saints should give him extended playing time because I think he’s capabale of making an impact. He was good against the run and helped his teammates finish plays. 3 tackles on the day.

Remi Ayodele: C (2.38) Limited action for Ayodele so it’s hard to grade the guy. He finished with 1 tackle and was fine overall. Certainly didn’t do anything special, either.

Rodney Leisle: C (2.0) Leisle held his ground well against the run, but he looked slow and overmatched when he tried to move laterally. He finished with 1 tackle.

Scott Fujita: C- (2.70) Fujita actually played a good amount of the game, but either he was uninspired or the Panthers avoided running in his direction with so many weak links to pick on elsewhere. He finished with 4 tackles and did a decent job against the pass, but his tackles were soft and he just looked out of it. Anytime there was a running play, he was extremely slow to help his teammates. Perhaps he was playing not to get injured like so many others. I’m sure the Saints would’ve preferred to sit guys like Fujita, Meachem and Henderson, but when you’ve only got 45 gameday roster spots you can only sit so many players.

Jonathan Casillas: B (2.84) Casillas was active and has really shown promise. The guy is all over the place on the field and he has a nice mean streak. I think he can use a little work in his tackling, and showing a little containment in his pursuit, but for an undrafted free agent he’s really played well the last few weeks and he’s a promising prospect at linebacker. I was really impressed with his toughness up the middle. He finished with 7 tackles and had loads of involvement. He never really got exposed in passing situations though, and I wonder if maybe that would be a weakness for him. He’s a bulky guy so he may not have the fluidity and range to cover as well.

Troy Evans: C- (1.87) Evans was the guy that whiffed miserably on Stewart’s counter that went 67 yards. He was the only guy that really had a chance to save that play.He finished with 5 tackles, but too many times was he completely blown up by blocks or slow to make a play.

Marvin Mitchell: B+ (2.67) Mitchell started at middle linebacker and played the entirety. He was physical, hard nosed and quick to the ball. He had 6 tackles and was a major part of the impressive second half performance that saw the Saints give up only 6 points defensively. He acted like a leader despite his lack of experience and showed me a lot. We’ve got a good backup behind Vilma.

Jabari Greer: B- (3.37) Greer looked rusty in coverage and got beat on a few throws. That said, he showed very clearly why he is the best cornerback on the roster. He was physical and wasn’t afraid to stick his nose in to help against the run. Twice the Panthers tries to run screens to Mushin Muhammad, isolated one on one with Greer, and both times the dwarfed corner made impressive tackles short of a first down marker. As he gets acclimated to game speed and gets his feet under him, he should be back to performing like he did earlier in the season. He finished with 6 tackles, but did give up some yardage in pass situations.

Randall Gay: C (2.60) Gay was burned often by the Panthers, and he didn’t do a good job of covering his man. More often than not it was Muhammad exposing Gay in the slot. That said, Gay was physical and at least able to limit the damage by making sure tackles. His coverage was bad enough that he deserved a worse grade, but he did an excellent job blitzing. Once he sacked Moore, and also blew up Moore on another play just as he released the ball. He finished with a team high 7 tackles, thanks in part to the plays he was giving up.

Tracy Porter: B- (3.06) Porter didn’t play a fantastic game by any means, but he showed a few good things out there. He finished with 2 tackles and a defended pass. By and large his coverage was pretty good, though suspect on one pass to Dwayne Jarrett.

Chris Reis: C- (1.67) Reis looked extremely slow out there. On Stewart’s long touchdown run, Reis was losing ground badly. There’s no denying he was busting his tail off and he wasn’t afraid to get physical, but the bottom line was he was too slow, too small, and of too little ability to really make an impact at free safety. I think Reis might be better off playing at strong safety, but he doesn’t really have the size for that either. He did finish with 6 tackles, but by and large he was a boy among men out there. I feel mean saying it because I love Reis and he’s liked by fans and praised as the “new Steve Gleason”, but he really needs to stick to special teams.

Roman Harper: C+ (2.75) Harper was throwing his body around out there and showing some effort. He took risks and overpursued incessantly. Some of his gambles paid off but I hope he plays with a little more restraint in the playoffs. He finished with 3 tackles.

Pierson Prioleau: C+ (2.42) Prioleau played pretty well in coverage, against the run, and did a good job of keeping plays in front him – except for one horrendous play. With just 13 seconds left in the first half, he allowed Dwayne Jarrett to abuse him in single coverage on a flag route over the middle. The result was a 30 yard touchdown pass just before halftime which was essentially a back breaker given the Saints’ anemic offense. Too bad, because Prioleau let down a defense that was actually playing pretty well. You take away that long run by Stewart and that terrible coverage by Prioleau and the Saints’ defense, backups and all, would’ve played a whale of a game. Unfortunately, as always, the big plays will kill you even when you’re playing well. As mentioned, though, beyond that play Prioleau was pretty solid. He finished with 4 tackles.

Garrett Hartley: B+ (2.67) Hartley was charged with handling kickoffs in this one and struggled to get much depth on his first two kicks. In his defense, though, the weather was cold and the conditions made it hard to really blast one. He did manage to kick his third one for a touchback. He also hit an extra point and his lone field goal try from 35 yards out right down the middle.

Thomas Morstead: A+ (3.00) Morstead was the Saints overall player of the game, in my opinion. His punting was a pure work of art. He punted 9 times, none of them touchbacks, and 7 of them pinned inside the 20. Just sick. It’s not like he was punting from close either, as he averaged a very healthy 46.3 yards per punt. He gave the Panthers no chance to get much going with the field position he stuck them in. If you’ve been following my grades you know I do not give A+’s out frequently, but Morstead deserves this one. I believe it’s the third one I’ve given out. Oh, and even though Captain Munnerlyn ripped off a 31 yard punt return at one point, Morstead’s net average was still 42.3, which was very very good. It’s sad when the punter is your best guy on gameday, but he deserves props.

Courtney Roby: C- (2.80) Roby was off to a great start in the game. He had a great tackle with the coverage
unit, then he downed two of Morstead’s punts inside the Panthers’ 20. He was headed towards a really nice little grade. Then, he had to negate a big time Reggie Bush punt return with a block in the back, and he had to fumble a kick return with under 5 seconds left in the half to set up one last John Kasay field goal before going into the locker room. I’m sorry, but fumbling a kickoff like that before halftime is a cardinal sin. I realize he got hit hard and got a concussion, and I hope he’s ok because we need him and he’s a good player, but you just can’t do that.

My Defensive Player of the Game: Anthony Hargrove

My Special Teams Player of the Game: Thomas Morstead

Andrew Juge

About Andrew Juge

I like the Saints. A lot.