picky harp

Saints Nation: Defensive and Special Teams Player Grades vs. Falcons

When you give up 17 points to an extremely potent offense, including a game winning goal line stop at the end of the game to seal the victory, it's safe to say this was an overwhelming success. Rob Ryan's first game was a huge hit. The defense gave up some plays, sure, but the overall result was more than we could have asked for. They deserve all the credit for this win, and if the Saints can have the defense carry them to victories at times this season it will make for a really special season.

Cameron Jordan: C+ (2.33) Despite a great preseason of constant pressure on opposing quarterbacks, he didn't get much pressure on Matt Ryan for the majority of this game. He did a good job in run support, though, and finished with 3 tackles. A quiet day.

Akiem Hicks: B (3.00) Hicks finished with 3 tackles and a BIG TIME sack on Ryan, where he embarrassed his blocker and threw Ryan to the ground merely by grabbing his jersey. Hicks was disruptive and proved he can be a physical player and capable starter. He has the ability to be a complete player with his size, quickness and ability to be effective in any situation. He did hurt his grade by giving Steven Jackson the initial lane that sprung his 50 yard scamper, though.

Brodrick Bunkley: B- (2.67) I feel weird grading him because he played so little, but man, he really did a fantastic job of controlling the line of scrimmage and interior before leaving the game at the end of the first quarter with an injury. Too bad because he seemed to be comfortable in the middle.

Tom Johnson: B- (2.67) In spot duty he had a big time pressure and hit on Matt Ryan that got the Saints off the field, and he also had a tackle. If Walker's injury is serious, the Saints will be glad they held onto this reliable veteran for the 53 man roster.

Tyrunn Walker: B- (2.67) In limited play time he teamed up with Junior Galette to rock Matt Ryan for a sack. That was the only play he was really involved in but he handled blocks well on other plays. On that sack his leg got rolled up and he was carted off with an apparent knee injury. I hope he's ok, it would be horrible to lose him for the season after he had showed such potential the last two preseasons. If he's done, Glenn Foster will be needed ASAP.

John Jenkins: B+ (3.33) He came in for Bunkley and played like a veteran nose tackle all day long. If Bunkley misses extended time, I feel good based on this performance that Jenkins is a starter quality nose in the NFL starting now. He controlled the line of scrimmage masterfully, handled double teams no problem, and moved well laterally with the pocket. He had two tackles. He was a big part of why the Saints shut down the run.

Junior Galette: B (3.00) Galette was rushing off the edge the majority of the game and while he only had the one sack he provided constant pressure on Ryan. He saw more time on the field doing what he does best in this scheme and I think this scheme is already proving to be good for him. I can't wait to see how many sacks he ends up with this season, but expect double digits.

Parys Haralson: B+ (3.33) Terrific performance from the newcomer considering how little time he's spent with the team. He did what he does best, playing the run, and also added a sack of his own to the mix. He finished with 4 tackles and showed the Saints he was absolutely worth the 7th round pick. If he can stay healthy that trade will be a steal.

David Hawthorne: B (3.00) Played the run extremely well and took advantage of the front 3's superior play to finish off a few plays. He did well in coverage, too, and he was responsible for hitting Steven Jackson for a loss.

Curtis Lofton: B (3.00) The Saints' leader was active and physical, per usual. He was very good against the run and didn't seem to get victimized much in the passing game despite that usually being his weakness. He finished with 5 tackles.

Ramon Humber: C+ (2.33) He didn't play much but was in the game on the goal line defense for the final drive. He was covering Jackson on the dropped touchdown pass that would've possibly given Atlanta a one point lead, but his coverage was good and disruptive enough to cause an incompletion. Pretty fortunate, though.

Keenan Lewis: C+ (2.33) He left the game with an apparent leg injury, only to return in the second half. He was beaten a few times but never had a massive mistake. He tackled well when he was beat and limited the damage. He poked a ball free from Harry Douglas, too, but that happened towards the end of a play and went out of bounds harmlessly. He finished with 2 tackles. A quiet day, neither good or awful, but kudos to him for coming back compromised. He was able to take advantage of Roddy White not being 100%.

Jabari Greer: C (2.00) A mixed bag for Greer. He got beat once pretty significantly by Julio Jones but tackles well. He did a decent job coming up to tackle backs on screen plays underneath, save one miss. He was flagged on special teams for an illegal block. He finished with 3 tackles, and was decent in coverage.

Corey White: B- (2.67) He had two very nice open field tackles and I thought he covered very well overall. He did get beat on the touchdown pass to Jones, but otherwise came in and gave the Saints solid depth.

Patrick Robinson: C+ (2.33) His coverage was fine though he was beat once by Harry Douglas covering the slot. He had two tackles, and left the game with an injury to what looked like his ankle.

Roman Harper: A- (3.67) He came up with the two turnovers the Saints created, with a fumble recovery that led to a really impressive 19 yard return, and the game winning interception to seal the deal. Those two plays alone earn him a good grade, especially the game winner. Outside of those two players he didn't provide much, though. His coverage was ok, but he did take a bad angle on the long Jackson run.

Malcolm Jenkins: B (3.00) His goal line play continues to be where he excels. He was involved in three stops short of the end zone in that type of defense, and it reminded me of the Bucs game last year where he came up with tough spots. When he's playing further back things go less well. I'm starting to think the main reason he and Harper don't play well together is because they are so similar in their skillset. They don't really compliment each other. He led the team with 6 tackles and did pretty well, but took an atrocious angle on the long pass play to Hugh Douglas and as the last time of defense he can't do that, it was costly. He also caused an important turnover with his strip of Julio Jones.

Kenny Vaccaro: B (3.00) He was often left the responsibility of handling Tony Gonzalez and overall he did pretty well. He was beaten at times, of course, but he was physical. He had a personal foul on Matt Ryan, that was a very stupid penalty, but it oddly was a big play in the game in my opinion. First off, lucky for Vaccaro, it came at the end of a first down run and because it was inside the 20 it was only a half a distance penalty. Secondly, while it was a stupid penalty, I think it sent a message to the Falcons. Ryan was banged up on the play and it communicated the Saints are not going to be walked all over this season, they are going to play mean and hit with reckless abandon. I do think it affected Ryan's performance a bit. And of course, Vaccaro came up with the huge play to knock the final pass loose so Harper could intercept it.

Rafael Bush: C+ (2.33) Played some at safety and was fine in coverage. Nothing special. He had two tackles and was involved on a tackle on White short of the end zone late.


Garrett Hartley: A (4.00) He was perfect on three field goals and two extra points, and the Saints needed every single point. His 48 yarder in particular to cut Atlanta's lead to 10-3 was big. Without that make momentum would've shifted heavily to the Falcons.

Thomas Morstead: A (4.00) He had a net of 42.3 on three punts, which is solid (gross 49.3) with a 61 yard boomer at one point. Two of those punts ended up inside the 20. On kickoffs he destroyed each one for a touchback, six in total. Very solid day.

Will Herring: B+ (3.33) He had a beautiful open field tackle and he also downed one of Morstead's punts inside the 10. To boot, he played some defense and broke up a third down pass to Gonzalez. Good contribution from Herring on the day overall. The only negative is he was called for holding on a return.


My Defensive Player of the Game: Roman Harper

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 vs. Falcons

If you listen to the podcast I participate in with Ralph Malbrough, you'll know we've given up on the Saints' defense ever being characterized in any individual game as universally "good" or even "decent". Instead, we've started aiming lower in hopes of the defense being good at just one thing, and maybe stop being the worst defense in NFL history because of it. Lo and behold, in this game against the previously 8-0 Falcons, the Saints were close to perfect against the run, generated a semblance of a pass rush, and played exceptionally well in the red zone. So that's, like, three things. They still gave up 454 yards of offense, but that's lower than 500. Baby steps. Make the jump for the grades.


Falcons vs Saints boxscore

Will Smith: B (2.33) He did a nice job on one play mauling Sam Baker, pushing back into Matt Ryan with sheer strength and hitting the quarterback's arm. Of course on that play he was flagged for illegal hands to the face, which was borderline. That's Will Smith's season in a nutshell. One step forward and two steps back. In this game he was very active, though, with 5 tackles. He was instrumental in shutting down Michael Turner and got involved a little bit in pass rushing.

Cam Jordan: B (2.48) His stats were just 2 tackles, but it doesn't really do justice to how hard he was playing. He played the run extremely well and he was hot in pursuit of Matt Ryan often. At one point he lost his helmet but still strung out a run to the sideline perfectly and finished the play off around the line of scrimmage with no helmet. He also had heavy pressure on Ryan on the 4th and goal pass that forced the ball out quickly. He is getting better.

Turk McBride: B- (1.67) Like Jordan, a stat line that doesn't tell the whole story. He was the most consistent pass rusher on the team in this game. He did a good job of consistently getting in Matt Ryan's face and forcing quick releases. He finished with 1 tackle.

Martez Wilson: C+ (2.41) He was dropped in coverage several times and didn't do much. He did have a sack, which was nice, but it was a result of downing Matt Ryan after he tripped.

Broderick Bunkley: B+ (2.38) Michael Turner had 15 yards on 13 carries and Bunkley was a huge part of that, particularly in the red zone and short yardage carries. If you watch the game tape you'll understand why the Saintssigned him this offseason. He simply couldn't be moved and controlled the interior. He finished with two tackles and helped set his teammates up to make plays.

Sedrick Ellis: B- (2.00) He showed the form of the first three years of his career. He was robbed of a sack when the Saints accepting a holding call before halftime which I still don't understand. He beat center Todd McClure (of LSU) badly on a quick move, got held, and tackled Ryan anyway for a sack. Too bad that one doesn't go in the books because it was a tremendous play. He got a good push on the interior a few times in this game. He also played the run well and tipped a pass.

Tom Johnson: B+ (2.08) The role player had a terrific game creating pressure up the middle and being very physical against the run. All three of his tackles were around the line of scrimmage.

Akiem Hicks: C (2.33) Played sparingly and had one quarterback knock down. The other tackles were playing well enough that his contribution wasn't needed as much.

David Hawthorne: B- (1.92) Making his return back to the Saints he got involved early and did a good job against the run. He hit Turner for a three yard loss on the first play of the game getting great penetration. He didn't have much duty in the way of coverage because whenever the Falcons passed out of the nickel set he was off the field, but was victimized once covering Tony Gonzalez. He had 4 tackles.

Curtis Lofton: C (2.81) Tough game to grade for Lofton as he was pretty up and down. I hear he was on the end of some serious trash talk all week and particularly by his former teammates on the field prior to kickoff, so the win means a lot to him and I'm happy to see that. He had 5 tackles and helped against the run. He also had a huge pass breakup on a 3rd down that got the Saints off the field. Still, his coverage was largely poor, getting burned numerous times by both Tony Gonzalez and Jacquizz Rodgers. The Falcons knew his weakness and tried to exploit it often. 

Jonathan Casillas: B- (2.22)  Casillas played extensively in nickel packages and was up and down in coverage. He finished with 3 tackles, including two near the line of scrimmage and he added a nice physicality. 

Jonathan Vilma: C- (2.09) He didn't play much but when he was in he wasn't impactful. Had 1 tackle. I think his best is pretty clearly behind him.

Patrick Robinson: B (1.74) His life was made much easier by the injury to Julio Jones which pinned him againstHarry Douglas instead for the majority of the game. Still, I'm surprised and borderline shocked that Matt Ryan didn't go after him more. It was a quiet day for Robinson who did a good job in run support sticking his head in there. He had 3 tackles and covered pretty well.

Jabari Greer: C- (2.25) He saves his grade a little bit with a huge pass break up on fourth down in the end zone against Roddy White to win the game. Still, his game was largely a disaster. He had 5 tackles but was beaten numerous times. Once burned deep on a stop and go by White which saw a perfectly thrown ball by Ryan, he was also beat on a jump ball deep to Julio Jones who was basically playing on one leg.  

Corey White: A- (1.93) What a game by the Saints' young corner who is finally turning a corner. He left the game with an apparent leg injury which hopefully isn't serious. He was good in coverage, breaking up passes, physical against the run and came up with a fantastic interception downfield. He had 3 tackles, including one for a loss.

Johnny Patrick: D+ (1.92) He came in for White and was immediately targeted often, having trouble running with Hugh Douglas. He had 5 tackles, mostly as a function of getting beat.

Malcolm Jenkins: B- (2.22) He led the team with 10 tackles and 3 defended passes. Per usual, he had some of his best plays in the red zone. I feel like we see his best when the other team has the ball inside the five. He came up with a huge breakup preceding Greer's game winning breakup. He did also get beat numerous times by Tony Gonzalez, but most of the time the coverage was good. He also put a nice hit on Roddy White which never gets old.

Roman Harper: C (2.26) Like Jenkins he was victimized by Gonzalez a few times but it wasn't for lack of good coverage. He did have a beautiful breakup in the end zone on a face to Gonzalez. He had 9 tackles and 2 defended passes. Still, most of those tackles were far downfield.

Isa Abdul-Quddus: D+ (2.22) I am admittedly harsh with him on this grade, and he did have a beautiful pass breakup in front of Tony Gonzalez, but he made two big mistakes. First, he took a horrible angle on a Rodgers run, allowing him to cut inside for more yardage. That's a tackle he just has to make. Then, he allowed Roddy White to get behind him in the dying seconds of the game on an overthrown pass by Ryan. Fortunately that ball was overthrown but as the last line of defense with the game on the line you just can't do that. It was inexcusable. We're all fortunate he didn't cost the team a win there. He had 1 tackle. 


Garrett Hartley: A (2.70) He made his lone 31 yard field goal attempt, hitting it perfectly down the middle, and all four extra points. The field goal was huge because it was late in the game, and if he misses, all the Falcons need on that final drive is a field goal to win. In other words, without that make, the Saints lose. Kudos to Hartley for bouncing back from some shaky performances.

Thomas Morstead: A+ (3.30) Every kickoff he blasted went for a touchback which we haven't seen in a while, so that was good, and his punts, my God, his punts! He blasted 5 punts for an average of 50 yards per, and allowed just 9 return yards! His net was 48.2. Give his coverage a lot of credit too for terrific open field tackles, but this has been a Pro Bowl performance all season from Legatron. If he doesn't get it this year, he never will. No punt was bigger that the one with 40 seconds left from his own 2 where he somehow managed to put the Falcons back at their own 31 to start the final drive.

Ramon Humber: B (3.50) Contributed a very physical tackle on special teams. He continues to be a solid performer. The coverage unit in general was positively outstanding.


My Defensive Player of the Game: Corey White

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 vs. Falcons

I’m starting to come to terms with what this Saints defense is. Once again they did a tremendous job against the run and I’m starting to become a believer that the interior is meshing well together. Stopping the run the last few weeks has come at the expense of giving up some massive passing yardage, but that tactic hasn’t been yielding a ton of points given up… so I’ll buy into it. The Saints, by the way, have now skyrocketed to 10th in the NFL against the run based on their recent success, though their pass defense is a woeful 30th. Teams right now are moving the ball at will on the Saints in between the 20’s, but they are stalling in the red zone and the most impressive part is they are having a really hard time converting 3rd and shorts. Once again the Saints’ D was terrific on 3rd down. I don’t know if you noticed, but despite having a bruising back like Michael Turner, the Falcons ran play action or a shotgun pass almost every single time in that game on 3rd and short. I was shocked. Clearly that 4th and 1 stop from the last matchup was still in Mike Smith’s head and he got gun shy. The play action, by the way, didn’t work at all, and the Falcons were 0-3 on 4th down attempts on the night. Lost in the mix of Drew Brees‘ NFL passing yards record was huge nights by both Julio Jones and Roddy White who gained yards in bunches against the Saints’ often soft pass defense. The Saints applied decent pressure at times, but credit Matt Ryan for having too quick of a release. As decent as their line is, Ryan is just a really tough guy to sack, like Brees, because he gets the ball out in a hurry. The Saints added to what is undoubtedly another NFL record, by the way, with what I counted as at least 5 more dropped interceptions in this once. Once Chris Redman came in for Ryan it just started to get ridiculous. I have never seen a group so incapable of catching a pass. And the poor pash rush, countless dropped interceptions and the 434 passing yards yielded added up to just 16 points. Go figure. How this defense continues to keep opposing point totals so low will be the biggest secret of them all. On to the grades.

Falcons vs Saints coverage

Falcons vs Saints recap

Falcons vs Saints boxscore

Will Smith: B- (2.72)  He was very solid using leverage against the run but he was never able to disrupt Matt Ryan’s timing much because of his quick release. He had one QB knockdown but was mostly a non factor in pass rushing situations and finished with 3 tackles. He was stout against the run and showed good effort in pursuit. He was also robbed of a sack when Matt Ryan threw the ball away for grounding.

Junior Galette: B- (2.42) He was rewarded with a start based on his good play lately and I think it was well deserved. At one point, he hit Ryan as he was throwing on just a 3 man rush where despite the numbers not being in the Saints’ favor he was able to beat the right tackle around the edge and make a play to cause an incompletion. Most notable once again is his continued improvement against the run and he’s becoming a more complete player. He finished with 2 tackles and 2 qb knockdowns.

Cameron Jordan: C+ (2.22) He had 2 tackles and defended a pass on a tip. He was being used as a defensive tackle a bit in pass rushing situations on 3rd and long which I found interesting. Per usual, he was mostly neutralized on pass rushing downs, but he gave the Saints a strong able body against the run.

Jeff Charleston: C- (2.15) Despite a good amount of playing time he recorded no statistic. I’d love to see the Saints keep the Smith-Galette-Jordan rotation but add a speed rushing specialist to that mix next season and maybe move Charleston down the depth chart. He gives effort but from an ability standpoint he’s clearly not as capable as the other ends the Saints have.

Sedrick Ellis: B+ (2.38)  For an injured player and a big man, he ran sideline to sideline very well. I was impressed with his pressure inside the pocket which forced Ryan to scramble a couple of times, and his run support was outstanding. He had a QB knockdown and 3 tackles and he helped a great deal against the load that is Michael Turner.

Aubrayo Franklin: B+ (2.40) His interior presence was very evident and he completely neutralized the middle. An outstanding game from Franklin and he made it clear why the Saints found him valuable this offseason. He played an instrumental role in setting up tacklers to finish off Turner, and he re-directed his runs by plugging up holes which ultimately led to short yardage on runs. Statistically he just had two tackles but make no mistake, he played well.

Shaun Rogers: B+ (2.25) He also had two tackles and a QB knockdown, and he obliterated Michael Turner on one run like few I’ve seen do before, if ever. He’s playing with a mean streak right now and clearly he’s getting more motivation from the high stakes he’s not used to seeing playing for a good team.

Tom Johnson: D (2.27) His lone stat was a 15 yard penalty.

Jo-Lonn Dunbar: C (2.55) Dunbar dropped an interception off his fingertips late from Chris Redman to cap off the night of numerous drops by the D. Surprisingly, though, despite being a weakness I thought he fared ok dropping in coverage. His tackling wasn’t as impressive as usual but he was flying around and active. He had 4 tackles and two defended passes. Most of his plays were downfield, though, and never around the line of scrimmage.

Jonathan Vilma: B- (2.55) He did finish with 7 tackles and competed hard, but clearly he’s just not 100% out there. The Saints need him for playcalling and leadership, but he just looks slow to the play, which causes him to miss tackles at times. Like Dunbar, most of his plays came well past the line of scrimmage. Give him credit, though, the effort is definitely there, and he knows the defense and his assignment so well that for the most part he’s able to get away with not being right.

Scott Shanle: A- (2.40) One of the better games of the year for Shanle. He did a good job in run support, he was pretty good in pass coverage despite drawing the Tony Gonzalez assignment often times. He did a nice job at one point breaking up a would be touchdown pass down the seam. His biggest play by far was the ball he jarred loose from Julio Jones which was scooped up and led to the Saints’ lone turnover. That play went for a touchdown and sealed the Falcons’ fate. Nice to see someone on this defense create a play. He had 7 tackles, that forced fumble, and that defended pass.

Ramon Humber: B (2.67) He played a good bit especially in pass coverage and he did a fairly good job underneath. His best play was a blitz where he drew a holding penalty to negate a first down and force a 3rd and long instead. He finished with 4 tackles.

Jabari Greer: A- (2.82) The only thing missing was an interception. He led the team with 10 tackles and for a little guy he did a fantastic job coming up at the line of scrimmage and tackling. He was run over by Turner once, but his help bringing him down at times around the line of scrimmage was excellent. Anytime he was tackling anyone else his physicality was way beyond his size. He was disruptive in passing situations and while he did give up some passing plays, he was never beat badly and he did a good job contesting numerous throws that came his way. A gritty performance. He also had a tackle for a loss and a defended pass. So many times he’d allow short passes underneath only to come up and make a perfectly clean open field tackle to make sure the play went nowhere. He’s got the best GPA on defense so he’s running away with defensive MVP for me now and created more separation after this game.

Patrick Robinson: B (2.67) He was victimized a couple of times but for the most part he did ok in coverage. He also, like Greer, did a fantastic job in run support and came up to make tackles a couple of times. He’s firmly entrenched ahead of Porter at this point as the starter and with good reason. He had four tackles and a defended pass, but he kind of disappeared towards the tail end of the game. I must have missed it. Did he get hurt?

Tracy Porter: C (2.39) His coverage skills have been struggling for a while and he gave up some plays. He finished with 2 tackles and 2 “defended pass”, one of his was a horrible drop on an easy interception. Come on man, you have got to catch that. It hasn’t been a good season for Tracy Porter.

Johnny Patrick: B- (2.50) He came in late and I thought overall he did a decent job in both coverage and tackling. I’m not sure why he’s playing over Leigh Torrence right now, who was inactive, but I assume the staff likes his special teams play better? He had 2 tackles.

Malcolm Jenkins: B+ (2.40) Jenkins played very deep in this game with most players in the box, so it was clear his job was to leave the intermediate throws underneath to zone coverage and just make sure he didn’t give up the huge play. For the most part he did that. He did not record a tackle but he registered 2 defended passes. The first was a HUGE hit on 3rd and short against Reggie Kelly were he practically broke the tight end in half. That was a big play for the Saints to get them off the field defensively. I did notice one thing in this game: he’s not the ballhawk we once hoped he’d be. Perhaps this explains his lack of interceptions: he doesn’t look for the ball and try to make a play on it all too often. Instead, he goes for the big hit. That’s the major difference between him and Darren Sharper. A couple of times I saw long throws where he could have ranged to the ball if he had tracked it, but he kept his eyes firmly on the receiver in an attempt to go for the knock out blow. That doesn’t mean he’s not good at what he does, but it made me realize he’ll probably never be the player we hoped he would be in terms of playmaking. He’s more like Roman Harper as a free safety, and less like Darren Sharper. He also had an unforgivable drop, of course yet again, that went right through his hands before halftime. His grade does get a well deserved boost for his 30 yard fumble return for a touchdown which put the game clearly out of reach and cemented the win.

Roman Harper: C- (2.27) He had 5 tackles and a qb knockdown. It wasn’t a very good day for Harper, though, as the lion share of his contribution was Matt Ryan finding him wherever he was in coverage and victimizing him on third down. Definitely not the first time that’s happened.

Isa Abdul-Quddus: C (2.29) Fantastic special teams player. Defensive back? Not so much. He had 4 tackles.

Jonathon Amaya: B- (2.47) He had 3 tackles late and seemed to have good control of the back end and he came up to make some sound and physical hits.


John Kasay: B+ (3.11) He did what he needed to do, making all six extra points and a chip shot 29 yard field goal.

Thomas Morstead: A+ (3.51) Believe it or not he’s tied with Drew Brees after this game with the best GPA on the entire team. I hear most of you saying/thinking “that’s ridiculous”, and obviously a punter giving a 3.51 consistent type performance helps less than a QB giving the same output, but while Morstead’s craft may be less instrumental… that’s how good he’s been at it this year. He’s been as good punting as Brees has been throwing, and that’s really saying something. I don’t know what Morstead ate before the game but his kickoffs were going out of the end zone every single time. His leg strength seems to be getting better at the end of the season. He also averaged 52 yards in two punts, neither of which was returned. How a punter can kick the ball high enough on a 59 yard punt to force a fair catch is frankly shocking. Legatron/The Leg/whatever other ridiculous nicknames were have concocted for him this season is a beast. He probably won’t go to the Pro Bowl this season due to lack of exposure and that will be one of the most criminal things I will witness in football.


My Defensive Player of the Game: Jabari Greer

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 vs. Falcons

Below are the grades for the defensive and special team players.

Will Smith: A- (2.72) He was awesome and this was arguably his best game of the season. Smith was a constant menace to the Atlanta passing game, repeatedly beating his man around the edge to apply pressure. He finished with 4 tackles, 2 sacks, a defended pass and induced a holding penalty when he was clearly headed for a sack. Honestly, I felt like holding calls could have been made against Smith at least 3 other times. The “defended pass”, by the way, was originally ruled a sack and forced fumble, but reviewed and changed to an incomplete pass. He was helpful at times in run support, but that area of his game was perfectible.

Charles Grant: D+ (2.19) Forgettable performance from Grant who was invisible for the majority of the night. Several of Michael Turner’s big runs came off his edge. He did a poor job rushing the passer and was largely neutralized. He finished with 3 tackles.

Bobby McCray: D+ (1.95) The only redeeming value in this performance for McCray is that he showed decent pressure on Atlanta’s final 2 drives. Other than that, he recorded no tackles and had another very quiet game. Time for him to step up and make a play, already.

Anthony Hargrove: C (2.33) Hargrove was decent rushing the passer and bad against the run. He finished with 4 tackles, a sack and laid a devastating hit on Matt Ryan as he released the final pass intercepted by Sharper. The Falcons ran the ball several times right at Hargrove and his size limitation showed. He was pushed around at the point of attack and made it obvious the Saints miss Sedrick Ellis on running plays.

Remi Ayodele: D- (2.06) Ayodele had just one tackle despite playing a significant amount time in the game. He was manhandled by the Falcons’ big line, and allowed Turner to escape his grasp several times. He looked slow and confused in many different sets. By far his worse game of the season. Run defense is supposed to be his specialty, but Michael Turner was allowed to run free and hurt the Saints defense immensely. Very poor performance from Ayodele.

Kendrick Clancy: C- (2.17) Clancy showed good pressure once on a passing play, and got involved a couple of times in run support. He seemed to push the pile with average results when he was in. Overall he didn’t get much action in the game. Maybe he was a little rusty, but it seems clear to me he’s a better option right now than Ayodele. Just 1 tackle on the day for the backup tackle.

Scott Shanle: D (2.81) By far Shanle’s worst game of the season. He’s been so solid and sound each and every week, it was a big surprise to see him struggle. He registered his very first tackle very late in the 3rd quarter, falling on top of a stumbling Tony Gonzalez downfield. He ended the game with 3 tackles. In the passing game he was stiff and missed a couple opportunities to deflect passes. He was a step slow getting to his assignments and he was pushed around in run support. He was useless against Michael Turner’s runs. It seemed like anytime there was an opportunity for Shanle to make a play, a blocker would wipe him out contention. He did not absorb hits the way he usually does.

Jonathan Vilma: B- (2.91) Vilma finished with 6 tackles and was active. He was one of the few players that got involved in trying to slow down Michael Turner. That said, he over-pursued on at least three plays inside, allowing Turner to bounce out wide and gain big yardage. He was not dominant like he was at Miami, and got push around from time to time. His grade would be worse, but he came up with one of the biggest plays of the game tipping a Matt Ryan pass that went into the hands of Tracy Porter for an interception. At that point Atlanta was in scoring position down 24-28, so Vilma came up with a big play at the most crucial of times.

Marvin Mitchell: C- (2.34) Marvin made two critical mistakes early that could have landed him an F grade. First he got beat severely by Gonzalez on a passing route, falling down to allow the hall of fame to be tight end to get yardage after the catch. Later, he jumped offsides on a big 3rd and 4 to give Atlanta the automatic first down. Some of you may have noticed Payton going over to him and letting him know that was twice (showing the number two with his fingers) Mitchell had screwed up and hurt the team. After that, though, he came back to make a terrific open field tackle on a punt return, and he helped in run support. He finished with 3 tackles.

Jabari Greer: B (3.52) Greer was tough as usual. He was assigned to Roddy White all day and defended many passes. He came up with a game turning interception which he ran back 48 yards for a touchdown before halftime. He did give up a 68 yard bomb to White, though, later in the game to get the Falcons back in it. On that play it looked to me like he was pushed in the back and the coverage overall was actually pretty good, so while he got beat it wasn’t egregious. Later, White almost had another touchdown which would have tied the game, but a review showed the pass hit the turf. Not only was Greer beat there, but he could’ve been flagged for pass interference. White had just 4 catches, but they went for 108 yards and a TD. Overall it was a tough player to guard for Greer, but Jabari handled it pretty well and made a huge play. He finished with 6 tackles.

Tracy Porter: A (3.24) Porter looked fantastic tackling and was very solid in pass defense. His crucial interception with the Falcons driving down 24-28 was one of the biggest plays of the Saints’ young season. Despite his limited size he was aggressive in helping his teammates bring down both Michael Turner and Tony Gonzalez. He made no real mistakes in the game, and he finished with 6 tackles.

Randall Gay: B- (3.00) Gay had 3 tackles and had pretty good coverage on Tony Gonzalez on occasion. He helped his teammates and didn’t make any major mistakes.

Roman Harper: B+ (3.19) A solid performance overall from Harper. He was in the box and he was the only one that didn’t seem scared to hit Michael Turner. He was all over the field and finished with 8 tackles. His grade could’ve been better, but he was bullied by Tony Gonzalez on passing plays, and he over-pursued like Vilma at times allowing Turner to bounce outside. The one play that really disappointed me was when he watched Turner get stacked up by about 4 Saints players, and instead of piling on and bringing the runner down – he saw Turner break free of the pile for a big gain. He needs to stay aggressive through the whistle, but overall he had a good game and didn’t make major errors against the pass like he sometimes does.

Darren Sharper: B- (3.19) Sharper had a horrendous angle on the first touchdown run by Michael Turner. As good as he can be at times, let’s not fool ourselves into thinking this guy doesn’t have limitations too. He’s definitely lost a step from his heyday. He’s still a major upgrade over past free safeties regardless. He finished with 4 tackles, a dropped interception, an interception on a desperate hail mary pass, and a blitz where he pummeled Matt Ryan and caused a big incompletion on 3rd down. Still, his tackling wasn’t always great and he was bullied by Michael Turner downfield with stiff arms. All of that aside, 7 interceptions in 7 games is just RIDICULOUS.

Jo-Lonn Dunbar: B- (2.50) Dunbar was great at times, and mediocre at others. He was extremely aggressive against the run and very active. Sometimes it got him in trouble, and other times he made good plays. He finished with 4 tackles. If Fujita misses another game, I think I prefer Dunbar over Evans at linebacker. He may make some mistakes due to lack of experience, but his hustle and fierce effort is refreshing. Evans may contain better, but he just doesn’t have the athleticism or skill of Dunbar.

John Carney: D+ (2.52) He made 5 extra points, though two were just inside the upright and a little close for comfort. His only real “test” was to hit a simple 37 yard kick and he let the Falcons back in the game by missing it. I wonder if Garrett Hartley may get a harder look after that miss?

Thomas Morstead: C+ (3.09) Morstead got less depth on his kickoffs than usual. Most of them fell either a yard deep or inside the 5. He punted twice with a 44.5 yard average and got good height on his punts. The coverage did an ok job of bailing him out, but it wasn’t his best game.

Courtney Roby: B (2.72) Roby didn’t get many chances early because of the depth of the kickoffs by Atlanta, but I was impressed that he showed intelligence and restraint in downing each of them. It’s good that he didn’t force what wasn’t there. When he did return kicks, he showed good burst and speed. He averaged 29.3 yards on 3 returns, and had a long of 35 yards. He gave the Saints decent field position when he could. He also had a tackle on coverage.

Defensive Player of the Game: Tracy Porter
Special Teams Player of the Game: Courtney Roby

Andrew Juge

About Andrew Juge

I like the Saints. A lot.