Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Saints Nation: Jet look a likes

I got fired up going to THIS FORUM thread of the New York Jets. They made fun of some of our Saints players coming up with look alikes. Well, I've come up with a few of my own:

Thomas Jones and LL Cool J - Coincidentally, they both like to pose in underwear

Larry Izzo and a Musketeer - En guard!

Jay Feely and Chris O'Donnell - Feely might actually be the better actor, and O'Donnell the better kicker.

David Clowney and James Brown - good thing you have to wear a helmet to play football.

Nick Mangold and Candace Cameron - Maybe the Olsen twins weren't the only characters on Full House with stunt doubles.

Mark Sanchez and Fez from That 70's Show - They talk the same, too!

What else you guys got for me?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Saints Nation: Jammal Brown placed on IR, shelved for season

It's official, former Pro Bowl tackle Jammal Brown will not play for the Saints in 2009. That leaves the Saints with Jermon Bushrod and Zach Strief to man the left tackle spot. For the time being, the Saints have re-signed Center Nick Leckey to replace Brown's left vacant roster spot on the 53 man squad. Leckey was released late last week when the Saints promoted quarterback Chase Daniel from the practice squad to the active roster. This is big blow for the Saints, as I was hoping they might be able to regain Brown for the second half of the season. It is yet to be determined whether the Saints will remain content with Bushrod and Strief on their roster or if they'll go out and seek another tackle to create more competition. They have worked out a few veterans in the past weeks, so don't rule out a new signing. Remember Bushrod also aggravated his leg injury last week and is questionable against the Jets. If Strief is slotted to fill in at left tackle that leaves primary backup guard Jamar Nesbit as the most likely candidate to step in if there was an injury.

Saints Nation: Running Back problem a good one to have

Between Reggie Bush, Pierre Thomas, Mike Bell and Lynell Hamilton - the Saints have 4 running backs who are capable of making plays. Both Bell and Thomas have had knee issues they are still nursing, but after the Jets games the Saints will have a bye week and a chance to be at full strength come week 6 against the New York Giants in the Superdome. The question then begs, who gets how many reps once all four are healthy? Regardless of who has been the guy running the football this year, the Saints have had success.

Check out the numbers thus far:

Mike Bell - 45 carries, 229 yds, 5.1 avg, 1 TD
Reggie Bush - 30 carries, 111 yds, 3.7 avg, 1 TD
Pierre Thomas - 14 carries, 126 yds, 9.0 avg, 2 TD's
Lynell Hamilton - 5 carries, 24 yds, 4.8 avg, 1 TD

Regardless of who the feature guy getting the carries is, the Saints have run the football very well. What's more, they've all excelled in short yardage situations, an area that plagued the Saints severly throughout the 2008 season (especially early in the season). Nice to see they've fixed that problem, at least early on.

I think it's clear at this point that Lynell Hamilton, while showing promising signs of ability last week, is 4th in the pecking order assuming the other 3 players are healthy. Reggie Bush will continue to get reps as a hybrid player in the offense. I don't think it's realistic to think Bush will lose playing time because he's such a game breaker and because the Saints have invested so much money in him. Bush creates major matchup issues for the defense and opens up plays for other players around him. Even when he's not touching the ball, he's a benefit to the offense in that he has to be accounted for. That leaves Mike Bell and Pierre Thomas as the two main candidates to handle the primary rushing duties. With Bush guaranteed to get his snaps as the #2, for Pierre and Bell it's going to be feast or famine most of the season. Each game one guy will be the guy getting the majority of reps, while the other will mostly be on the bench. Bell seemed to have the position all but locked up based on his stellar performance prior to his unfortunate knee injury against the Eagles. That injury should keep him out till the Giants game, most likely, so Pierre Thomas will get the chance to strengthen his case as "the man" this weekend against the Jets. Even at that point, it's hard to imagine Bell will surpass Pierre Thomas based on the game he played against the Eagles. While still not at 100%, Thomas has made it clear he's currently the Saints' best option at running back. All in all, though, the fact that these 4 players are playing at a high level is a good problem for the Saints to have. Take as evidence the fact that Bush, Thomas and Bell have all already been injured at some point this season - and someone else has stepped in each time and performed well. Imagine how dangerous the Saints can be when all 4 of these guys are healthy and they can afford to pick the best one.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Saints Nation: Player Grades @ Bills

Terrific overall performance by the Saints in their 27-7 road win over the Bills. Below you'll find the grade for each player in the game. Remember, the GPA you see in parentheses is their GPA for the season (not the game).


Drew Brees: C- (3.11)
Not Brees' finest performance. You could see both teams struggling to pass and that was in large part due to the windy conditions. That said, Brees held on to the ball longer than usual and his accuracy was clearly affected. He lost a fumble, didn't throw for a touchdown, and threw for under 200 yards.

Pierre Thomas: A (4.0)
Wow. What else can you say? The guy doesn't play an entire half, comes in cold, and runs for 126 yards on 14 carries and 2 TD's? That's right, all that work was done in one half. He would've gotten and A+ if he had played the whole game. The Bills could not stop Pierre as he continually gashed them for big plays. He looked elusive and tough through the hole. Thomas put the Saints offense on his back and led them to victory.

Reggie Bush: B- (2.0)
Much much better performance from Bush. He amassed 64yds on 13 carries, and added another 17 on 3 catches. He ran forward and looked speedy through the hole. His first half was overall very encouraging and hopefully he can build on this performance. His punt returning continues to be an absolute atrocity, though, and I am calling for the Saints to activate Rod Harper for those duties. PLEASE.

Lynell Hamilton: B (3.0)
Hamilton got the start and finally got a chance to show his ability in a real game. He finished with 5 carries for 24 yards and 1 touchdown. Pedestrian stats, but Hamilton gets his grade for showing impressive power on two crucial short yardage situations. First, he somehow got his way into the endzone on a play from the 1 yard line despite a very crowded line, and then he muscled his way through two tackles to pick up a first down. Both plays gained little yardage, but they showed how tough he can be. He also had a nifty 16 yard scamper.

Heath Evans: B (3.33)
Evans didn't get any stats in this game, but he was the lead blocker for these statistics: 38 carries, 222yds, 5.8 per carry and 3 TD's. Evans was paving the way for a stellar rushing performance all day long. He threw a huge block that sprung Pierre Thomas' back breaking 34 yard score to give the Saints a 17-7 lead.

Jeremy Shockey: B+ (3.44)
Shockey has been awesome. There were two situations where I thought he missed his blocking assignment (once namingly on the tripping penalty), but otherwise blocked well and he is a huge weapon in the passing game. He absorbs hits over the middle making tough catches - showing reliability and soft hands. He finished with 6 catches for 48 yards.

Marques Colston: B (3.11)
Colston was nothing short of amazing on the opening drive, but he had just one reception the rest of the way. Again, the wind was largely to blame, but it was disappointing to see his stat line end at 4 catches for 67 yards after making 3 grabs on that first drive. Colston also was seen running poor routes for a good part of the game.

Devery Henderson: B+ (3.55)
Brees didn't look Henderson's way much, but when he did Henderson was good. Henderson ended with 3 grabs for 40 yards. What impressed me the most about Henderson, though, was his downfield blocking. Bush's long run of 17 got at least an extra 5 yds at the end thanks to Devery's effort. That guy is never afraid to stick his nose in there and help the running game. Give him credit also for disrupting a deep ball thrown into triple coverage by Drew Brees. That pass was a sure interception, and he managed to get in there and cause the ball to fall harmlessly incomplete.

Jermon Bushrod: B- (2.78)
Mixed bag from Bushrod, which seems to be his usual. Consistently inconsistent. On the touchdown run by Hamilton, he did a terrific job moving the pile away from the runner. He also did a terrific job handling Schobel on numerous occasions. On the bad side, Bushrod also gave up a sack that led to a fumble and turnover. That sack was partially Brees' fault for holding on to the ball too long, but Bushrod was run over. Before leaving with an ankle injury, he also jumped offsides.

Zach Strief: B+ (3.11)
I personally think Strief has been great, and I like him at left tackle better than Bushrod. Give him a lot of credit for the Hamilton touchdown, too, because along with Bushrod he opened that hole for Lynell to squeak through. His size really makes it hard to get around him, which is great for pass blocking around the edge. As always he did well as the "blocking tight end", but he also filled in for an injured Bushrod and played well.

Carl Nicks: B- (3.34)
Nicks had a tough assignment facing Kyle Williams. He was beaten a couple times, and victimized by a holding call that hurt the Saints, but he won his fair share of battles too. His pass blocking was overall spotty, and when Brees would step up in the pocket to avoid pressure off the edge he would sometimes get hit by Nicks' man. Give Nicks credit for his run blocking, though.

Jonathan Goodwin B+ (3.44)
Goodwin is becoming one of the more reliable players on the entire offensive line. His agility week to week is so impressive. He can really move for a center and you can tell his chemistry with Brees is much improved from a year ago. Solid game.

Jahri Evans A (3.67)
Every time you saw Bush, Hamilton or Thomas downfield, Evans was right down there with them. He was the common denominator on almost every single big play the Saints' offense had. If this guy doesn't make the Pro Bowl this year then the voting process needs to be revised. Through 3 games he's shown why he's such a special player. I'm sold after today he's the best player on the Saints line, including a healthy Jammal Brown.

Jon Stinchcomb C+ (2.56)
Stinchcomb got Brees sacked once on a poor block, and he had a terrible clip that was easily caught by the refs. Overall Stinchcomb needs to raise his play. He deserves credit too for the rushing performance, but overall I thought he was the worst offensive lineman for the Saints on the day. I've seen him play much better in the past and I know he can do better.


Will Smith A (2.56)
Finally, Will Smith showed up and showed fans what he can do. Man, was he on his game. Smith made a phenomenal play on a 3rd and very short, blasting through the line and smacking Fred Jackson back for a loss. He got a sack and ended with 5 tackles, and was a constant pest to the Bills both stacking up the run and getting in Trent Edward's face. His biggest play was when he ended a Bills drive in Saints territory with the score still 10-7 in the 2nd half, as he made a tough catch off a tipped pass to get his first interception of the season.

Charles Grant B+ (1.89)
I have to say I had all but given up on Sir Charles, but he showed new signs of life. My main complaint with him is still that he makes great plays before disappearing for extended periods of play. Today it was better. He was especially solid against the run all day long, and ended with 1.5 sacks on the day. I was surprised to see how much pressure he put on the Bills on passing downs. Nice to see, let's hope he can keep it up.

Bobby McCray C- (2.17)
Just 1 tackle for McCray, but he was beaten a few times and looked lost out there. The Saints lined him up a few times at outside rushing linebacker in the 3-4, a position Fujita usually mans, and McCray didn't do much to distinguish himself. He still struggles mightily against the run.

Anthony Hargrove D+ (2.17)
Hargrove was slapped twice with what I thought were harsh personal fouls. Still, he cost the Saints 30 yards in penalties. He did end with 4 tackles, but overall Hargrove showed a total lack of poise in this game.

Sedrick Ellis A- (3.22)
Ellis was fantastic. He rushed the passer well, he was effective against the run, and his motor is impressive. Ellis was involved in several plays downfield. You have to love the guy's ability, but also his hustle and effort. He ended with 5 tackles and a sack.

Remi Ayodele B- (1.84)
I was shocked to see he ended up with no statistics in the game, because I thought he was pretty good. I think the statisticians robbed him of at least a couple assisted tackles. He was great on the interior disrupting the pile and creating opportunities for the players around him to make plays. On Will Smith's sack, Ayodele was responsible for the pressure and forced Edwards to step right into Smith. He deserves credit for the Saints performance against the run today.

Scott Fujita B+ (2.78)
Fujita started off the game horrible. He bit very badly on a play action fake, missed a tackle, and got beat on a passing play. I was thinking to myself he is slowly but surely headed towards an F. But Fujita never relented and continued to play the solid football we are so used to seeing from him. After the first two drives, Fujita was starting to deliver A material. He was sure in his tackles and showed anticipation in his reads. He ended with 9 tackles and ran well sideline to sideline. He's not flashy but the guy handles his responsibilities well.

Scott Shanle C+ (3.00)
Shanle was quiet, and not as good as what I saw the first couple weeks. He did finish with 6 tackles, but was beaten again on a few passing plays and was out of position on a couple of running plays that led to bigger gains for Fred Jackson.

Jonathan Vilma B (3.11)
Vilma delivered a HUGE blow on Fred Jackson on the opening drive of the game. I'm sure Jackson is still hurting from that one. Vilma had 5 tackles, and did a good job hitting Edwards a couple times on blitzes. Vilma's one huge mistake was leaving his receiver on the fake field goal to rush the holder/punter/passer. That left his man wide open and gave him an easy trot to the end zone. While the first down was a given if he stays with his man, at least it forces the Bills to continue the drive as oppose to giving them the sure touchdown. But overall, as always, he did a great job leading the troops and participating in gang tackles.

Marvin Mitchell B (3.0)
Extended action for Mitchell today in the 3-4 alignment. 6 tackles for him as well as he was heavily involved and did a good job against the run. I hope we get to see more of him - he seems like a promising young player.

Jabari Greer A (3.55)
Terrell Owens was held catchless for the first time since 1996. What more can you say? Greer had arguably the game of his life. He completely shut down one of the most decorated receivers in NFL history. He was beyond solid against the pass. Owens did beat him once down the seam, but Edwards thankfully overthrew the pass. Greer finished with 6 tackles. What a great pickup for the Saints.

Tracy Porter B+ (3.11)
Porter was good, too. He was matched up against Lee Evans most of the day, and Evans had just 4 catches for 31 yards. Again, the wind was a factor, but when TO and Evans combine for 4 catches - that's a stellar performance by your corners.

Randall Gay B (3.0)
Gay was sent blitzing early and often. He was a defensive end as much as he was a corner in this game. He was in Edwards' face all day long and even got half a sack to his name. Gay also ended with 3 tackles and did a good job in coverage.

Malcolm Jenkins B (3.34)
Jenkins had yet another game changing play on special teams. His force fumble and recovery was a thing of beauty. The guy is clearly a playmaker, and you can tell the Saints recognize that as he was seen playing more and more on defense later in the game. His grade is hurt a little bit by the bone headed block in the back he had on one punt return.

Roman Harper A- (3.11)
Less exposed than usual in the passing game, Harper was in the box all day making plays and laying hard hits on anyone in his way. He was sent blitzing often, and was a headache for Edwards, literally. He made plays in the backfield and around the line of scrimmage often. A very solid performance for Harper, who ended with a game high 10 tackles. His best game of the season by far.

Darren Sharper C (3.0)
Sharper was quiet and ended with just 2 tackles. Didn't have much work on the back end as the deep ball was mostly taken out of the playbook given the weather. He did manage to have a bone headed late hit that game the Bills a free 15 yards.


John Carney B+ (2.89)
Didn't miss a kick, so he was solid. He was 2 for 2 on field goals with a long of 35. Nothing special, but he did what was asked of him.

Thomas Morstead B+ (3.33)
Morstead consistently got great depth on his kickoffs, and boomed his punts pretty good. He ended with an average of 42.6 on 5 punts, but his best punt was a short effort downed inside the 5. With a GPA of 3.33 through 3 games, you get the idea that this guy is a keeper. Great draft choice by the Saints.

Courtney Roby C- (2.0)
Roby got a shot at one return, and he had a chance to break it wide and get a good return. Unfortunately a good open field tackle was made - and Roby's day was basically done. Roby did a good job helping on coverage units, but not much chance to show his stuff.


Sunday, September 27, 2009

Saints Nation: Saints beat Bills 27-7 in Buffalo behind fantastic defense and Pierre Thomas

The Saints are now 3-0 after beating the Buffalo Bills on the road 27-7. If you're not on the bandwagon already, it's time to get on. Couple this win with a Falcons loss today, and the Saints have taken sole possession of 1st place in the NFC South. The Saints defense played a fantastic game and held the Bills under 250yds, while Pierre Thomas came in in the second half to compile 126 yards rushing and 2 scores. Check out the box score HERE, and check back tomorrow for the player grades. WHO DAT!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Saints Nation: Saints @ Bills pregame

The Saints quest to run their record to 3-0 runs through Buffalo this weekend, on Sunday, as the Saints play the Bills at 3:05pm Central, 4:05pm Eastern. The Bills are 1-1 following a last minute collapse to the Patriots in Foxboro, and a blowout win at home against Tampa Bay. The Bills are currently 14th offensively, and 28th defensively (including 31st against the pass). Good matchup on paper for Drew Brees and the Saints' passing attack. The Saints are 1st offensively, and 21st defensively.

Out for the Saints: Jammal Brown (hip), Darnell Dinkins (ankle), Mike Bell (knee).

Questionable for Saints: Lance Moore (hamstring), Kendrick Clancy (knee).

Other status updates:

Drew Brees QB left Shoulder Full Participation in Practice
Jermon Bushrod T Knee Full Participation in Practice
Jeremy Shockey TE Ankle Full Participation in Practice
Pierre Thomas RB Knee Full Participation in Practice
Jo-Lonn Dunbar LB Hamstring Limited Participation in Practice
Charles Grant DE Hamstring Limited Participation in Practice
Roman Harper S Hamstring Limited Participation in Practice
Bobby McCray DE Back Limited Participation in Practice

Other notes:

Last time these two teams played, the Saints won 19-7 in 2005 at the Alamodome in San Antonio. This was the Saints second "home" game after being displaced from Hurricane Katrina, the first "home" game being against the Giants in New York.

Fullback Corey McIntyre and Strong Safety Brian Scott of the Bills have both played for the Saints in their career.

Former LSU Tigers Josh Reed and Kyle Williams are both on the Bills' roster.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Saints Nation Fans Have Spoken: All NFC South 1st Team Includes Darren Sharper and Jermaine Phillips at safeties.

No surprise that the Saints Nation fans picked the current Saints' free safety and current NFL active leader in total interceptions in Darren Sharper. What came as a little bit of a surprise is that the other safety selected was Tampa Bay Buccaneer Jermaine Phillips. Phillips was actually in the news yesterday, as it was coincidentally announced that he'd be put on IR and shelved for the season with a broken thumb. Thanks for voting, the next poll should be an interesting one: All NFC South 1st Team Kicker. 3 very successful veterans on the list with John Kasay, Jason Elam and John Carney. Who's your choice? Please participate in the poll on the right side of the site.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Saints Nation: Facing the Bills

The Saints travel to Buffalo this Sunday to face the Bills - and on paper it looks like a decent matchup. Through 2 games the Bills have the 28th ranked defense, 31st against the pass and 8th against the rush. Offensively the Bills are 14th, 20th in passing and 6th rushing. A little surprising that the Bills have managed to run the ball so well thus far because Marshawn Lynch has been suspended. Fred Jackson has filled in at running back and run for 220yds in 2 games with an average per carry of 5.1 yards. Pretty impressive stuff. Jackson also leads the team in receiving and their passing game has been very efficient as Trent Edwards (pictured) currently boasts a 64.3% completion rate and a 104.9 rating. Lynch will serve his last game of suspension so the Saints can expect a heavy dose of Fred Jackson. The Bills are 1-1, including a game where they had the Patriots on the ropes in Foxboro and lost late on an ill advised Leodis McKelvin fumble when they were in a position to ice the game. The following week they came home and blew out the Buccaneers.

The Saints rank 1st overall offensively, 1st in passing and 8th in rushing. Their defense is currently 21st, 29th against the pass and 4th against the run. I'm hearing that with Mike Bell hurt and Pierre Thomas still not quite at 100%, Lynell Hamilton has been getting a healthy dose of reps with the 1st team this week. Don't be surprised if he's used as the primary back Sunday. this may be his chance to show what he can do.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Saints Nation: Balance the key to Saints' success

If you look at the stats from the Saints first two victories, a balanced attack is evident and that's been the key to the Saints' success. Week 1 had the Saints running 35 times, and passing 34 times. Week 2 had the Saints running 29 times and passing 34 times. All in all, in 2 games the Saints have won putting up over 40 points in each, they've run 64 times and passed 68 times. Pretty even numbers if you ask me. I've compiled the numbers on last year's 8 wins, and 8 losses, and they look like this:

In 8 wins, the Saints averaged passing 34.1 times and rushing 29 times.
In 8 losses, the Saints averaged passing 45.4 times and rushing 20.8 times.

In other words, about 10 plays more were passes instead of rushes in the losses. That number is astronomical. Now sure, when you're losing you tend to throw more because you're behind, and when you're ahead you tend to run more to run the clock - so to an extent those numbers may not be that surprising. But with the Saints it is exacerbated by the fact that Sean Payton loves to pass. How can you blame him? He's got Brees, Bush, Shockey, Lance Moore, Devery, Colston, Meachem... lots of weapons and lots of possibility for big plays. But beware of being too greedy. With a few exceptions, the Saints played in A LOT of close games last year. The numbers should not have been that skewed. For example, the Saints lost 23-20 at Tampa last year, throwing 47 times and rushing 18 times. That game you'll remember was also in a driving rain storm. That's just stubborn playcalling and poor adjustment to circumstances if you ask me. Another loss was 33-31 to the Panthers: 49 passes, 11 rushes. In that game the Saints got way behind and played catch up - but the fact remains the more they throw the more they lose.

Don't get me wrong, the Saints are a pass first team. Based on our top quarterback, finesse line, average running backs and above average receivers/tight end. Let's face it, they are at their best when they are passing. My point is they need to run enough to make other teams respect it. We're not built to run 50 times a game and win like the Titans or Ravens. What I've seen so far this year is a much more balanced attack, and it seems like Sean Payton has improved as a play caller. Of course, it's much easier to call plays from ahead than it is from behind - and sooner or later this season the Saints won't start a game the way they've started these first two. Against Detroit and Philly the Saints jumped out to early leads making it easier to run. When the opposite happens and the Saints fall behind, it will be interesting to see if Payton has learned from the error of his ways. That's not to say I don't think Payton is a good coach - I think he's a very good one. But as always and with anything, things is perfectible. I think Payton has a habit of relying too much on the pass too early. So far this year I haven't seen that, and it's a great sign. A by the way, less is more with passing. Take the Detroit game as evidence; the Saints ran 35 times and threw 34, but still managed 6 touchdown passes tying a Saints record that stood for 41 years. Brees once threw 58 times in a game last year and only got 2 touchdowns out of it. The point is the more teams respect the fact that you can and will run the football, the more vulnerable they are to the pass. And let's face it, passing is what the Saints do best. So again, balance is key because while the Saints pass less, they get more positive results out of the times they do pass. Ultimately balance will decide how far the Saints can go this year.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Saints Nation: Fans pick Greer and Ronde Barber as the corners

Saints Nation fans selected Jabari Greer and Ronde Barber as the two corners on the All NFC South first team. Thanks for voting and please pick your two safeties on the right side of the site.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Saints Nation: Player Grades @ Eagles

Below you'll find my grades for the Eagles game. You'll first see the letter grade for that player's performance in the game, and in parentheses behind it the player's cumulative GPA for the season (so through 2 games thus far). Keep in mind some players listed below may not have received a grade for their first game if they didn't receive enough playing time.


Drew Brees: A- (3.83)
Another stellar performance by Brees. He did hang on to the ball longer than usual which resulted in him getting plastered a couple times - so I was glad to see him get up. His interception, while a dangerous throw in traffic, was more a result of a tremendously athletic play. Brees also fumbled once. Beyond that, he found open receivers almost at will and his accuracy was pinpoint as always. 311 yards and 3 TD's.

Mike Bell: A- (3.67)
Bell gets his second straight A- grade after a terrific performance. He had great burst through the hole, and did a fantastic job of finishing his runs. He also had a nifty reception that he turned upfield for a positive gain. Too bad he got injured, this gives Pierre Thomas a chance to reclaim his job. Bell finished with 86yds on the ground, which included a very impressive 7 yard power run into the end zone for a TD.

Reggie Bush: C+ (1.67)
Bush did very well again in the passing game, where he showed soft hands and an ability to make plays. His punt returns were once again an atrocity as he continues to run backwards to create something before losing a significant chunk of yardage. Makes you wonder when Rod Harper will get his chance. He became the primary running back once Bell went down with the injury, and was hit or miss. The one play he made that was terrific was an off left tackle burst where Bush showed his incredible quickness and speed. That play went 19 yards for a touchdown. A nice surprise was that he also showed some decent pass protection for Brees.

Heath Evans: A- (3.5)
Evans had another terrific game. This was my take on his effort last week "Evans was solid in run blocking, and spectacular catching the football. He showed soft hands, decent speed, and terrific toughness when the football came his way." Sound familiar? The touchdown reception he had this week was a thing of beauty. And for all the great things Mike Karney did, I can see why the Saints went with Evans.

Devery Henderson: B+ (3.67)
Henderson ended the game with 3 catches for 71 yards. He did have a drop on an easy toss over the middle, but did you guys see that catch he made down the sideline on 3rd down for 38 yards? First off, that should have been pass interference because the defender was all over him. Secondly, that catch was sick. One of the best catches I've seen made by a Saints player. More than made up for the drop he had. Henderson also had a nifty move to avoid a defender on a reception before showing off his speed to pick up a first down. He's off to a terrific start this season.

Marques Colston: A (3.17)
Nice rebound for Colston who I thought was up and down last week. With his 2td's in this game he now has 3 for the year, so he's off to a tremendous start. Colston finished with 8 grabs for 98 yards and was very good blocking downfield. He used his wide frame to get valuable tough yards after the catch, and his second touchdown was a thing of beauty - using his height to catch the ball at it's highest point before absorbing a hit on his way down and holding on to the football.

Robert Meachem: C+ (3.0)
Quiet afternoon for Meachem. He did have a huge 3rd down conversion reception for 11 yards, and a reverse for 15 yards, but beyond that he wasn't very involved. Surprising because with Lance Moore out he got plenty of reps. He made the most of the two times he touched the ball, but would have liked to see him more involved as much as the Saints threw the ball.

Jeremy Shockey: B+ (3.5)
I was surprised to see that Shockey's stat line was just 4 catches for 49 yards because he had 3 grabs on the opening touchdown drive alone. Still, Shockey made terrific plays over the middle and opened up the offense early for the Saints. He let the Eagles know early in the contest they were going to need to respect him over the middle. He showed solid blocking and sure hands throughout the game. He disappeared a little bit in the second half, but the Saints didn't suffer much from it.

David Thomas: B- (2.67)
I didn't give him a grade last week because he wasn't involved much, but his reps picked up this week. He's showing he's a reliable target for Brees that can help the Saints with Billy Miller gone for the season. Thomas ended with 2 catches for 19 yards, but was also the target on Brees' interception. He was open and would have had a first down if Brees could've gotten the ball to him. I didn't get a chance to really evaluate his blocking, but I didn't notice anything unforgivable.

Jermon Bushrod: B (2.84)
Bushrod was assigned with a very tough task going up against Trent Cole. He gave up a sack where Cole beat him around the edge and almost got Drew Brees killed. I was relieved to see Brees get up from that hit. Beyond that, Bushrod was pretty solid. I thought it was an improvement both in the run blocking and pass blocking from a week ago. He neutralized Cole pretty well after the sack, and had a nice block on Bush's TD run.

Carl Nicks: A- (3.67)
Nicks is an absolute MAULER. This is his second straight A- performance and I think the Saints really got themselves a great player.

Jahri Evans: B (3.5)
Not the performance we saw from Evans a week ago, but he was still very solid. He did have a false start penalty, his first penalty of the season. His man also hit Brees once or twice that I can remember on passing plays after Brees got rid of the football - but overall solid. He did a great job on the interior creating room for Mike Bell to run. Before the intentional safety, he was pushed around a little bit as Bush tried to run behind him.

Jonathan Goodwin: A- (3.5)
I thought Goodwin improved significantly from a week ago. I saw him downfield several times on running plays. Goodwin shows a good amount of speed and agility for a player of his size. Despite a number of shotgun snaps, his snaps were always on target, and he sprung Mike Bell's terrific touchdown run. He always seemed to be involved on the big running plays.

Jon Stinchcomb: B- (2.57)
He was lucky he wasn't called for a facemask penalty and/or a hold on that swing pass to Reggie Bush that turned into a big gain. Could have negated a huge play. Stinchcomb was also beat on a pass play that resulted in Brees getting sacked and fumbling. Stinchcomb, however, was more solid than usual in run blocking. Brees did a good job stepping up in the pocket anytime he felt pressure from the outside.

Zach Strief: B (3.0)
I'd love to see this guy play more. He's huge, and I can remember him sealing the edge twice to create HUGE cutback lanes for Mike Bell that turned into runs of 10+ yards. The one thing I don't like is anytime he's in the game as the #2 tight end it's very obvious the Saints are running the football. I don't think I've seen them throw one time in two games with Strief lined up at tight end. I wonder if he's not only better than Bushrod at left tackle, but possibly better than Stinchcomb at right tackle? Either way, great backup to have and he's been playing well for 2 straight weeks.


Charles Grant: D+ (1.17)
I don't know how I'm supposed to give this guy a better grade when he's a top 5 paid player on the team and he posts 1 tackle. Again, he was completely invisible for big chunks of time and his pass rushing performance was forgettable. At least this week I saw him hit Kolb as he released a pass once. Grant seemed lost against the wildcat, and while his run support was ok at times, I just need to see more out of him.

Will Smith: C- (1.84)
Unlike Grant, Smith at least provided some pressure at times to Kolb. Smith is the king of getting there too late to get a sack, but early enough to disrupt things a little. He ended with 1 tackle as well, and he too was invisible for large chunks of time. The Saints 4 man rush is as bad as I remember it being a year ago.

Sedrick Ellis: B+ (3.0)
Ellis was pretty good last week, but he was much better this week. The big man posted 4 tackles and was downfield on plays where the Eagles made plays. He showed terrific athleticism, hustle, and fire. The Saints gave up only 85 yards rushing (on 21 carries) and Ellis was a big part of that.

Remi Ayodele: D (1.0)
Ayodele posted 1 tackle and didn't impress filling in for the injured Kendrick Clancy. Ayodele doesn't have Clancy's football IQ, grit or experience - and it showed. Clancy can't get back soon enough.

Bobby McCray: B- (2.67)
I'll give McCray a B- because he at least got a sack and hit Kolb hard on another play that resulted in an incomplete pass. Last week he was so quiet he didn't get a grade. He didn't get to play enough, though, and he was pretty quiet when he did play besides those two plays. I do remember his run supporting ability getting exposed in the wildcat formation, too.

Anthony Hargrove: B (3.0)
Hargrove, like McCray, didn't get a grade last week because of limited playing time. This week he played more, frequently replacing Ayodele at DT. He finished with 3 tackles and was in Kolb's face a couple of times. I thought he had a good motor and was aggressive. I still haven't seen in Hargrove what we all saw in preseason, and what people saw in training camp, but it was an encouraging performance.

Scott Shanle: B (3.34)
Shanle got a terrific tide changing interception, his second in 2 weeks. He also led the team with 11 tackles and was frequently around the ball. The reason I give him a B, though, and not higher, is because he was repeatedly beat by Brent Celek of the Eagles on passing plays. While he had sure tackles for the most part that stopped Celek from gaining big chunks of yards after the catch, he was often yielding that 7-9 yard pass underneath before getting there. Granted that was a tough player to cover, but it also explains in part why Shanle's tackle total was so high. I still thought he played reasonably well, especially given a crucial INT at an important time, but his tackle total doesn't tell the whole story.

Scott Fujita: C- (2.5)
Fujita was very very quiet. Too quiet. He finished with 1 tackle and wasn't a factor, but he also didn't miss any assignments or have any serious errors.

Jonathan Vilma: B (3.17)
Vilma was active and sure in tackling. I wouldn't say he was dominant, but he played pretty well. He finished with 7 tackles, and defended the wildcat well.

Jabari Greer: B+ (3.33)
7 tackles, and he looked solid making them. Great in run support, and great in pass coverage. I really think the Saints have picked up a good one.

Tracy Porter: B (3.0)
Porter isn't as sure of a tackler as Greer but he's very solid in pass coverage too. He followed up his 7 tackle performance last week with just 1 this week, but he did notch an interception on the games' final play. Those two make a pretty good tandem at corner.

Roman Harper: B- (2.84)
Harper was active around the box and finished with 7 tackles. He also came on a blitz and notched his first sack of the season. I think he's a fine tackler and great in run support. I still think his pass defense is a glaring weakness. Some said Gregg Williams' defense would improve him drastically - but for me it's more of the same from Harper. That's not necessarily a bad thing, Harper is a good strong safety... but his ability to play over the top is suspect. He bit badly on the long touchdown pass to DeSean Jackson.

Darren Sharper: B+ (3.5)
Sharper showed that he's lost a step trying to play catch up to DeSean Jackson on the previously mentioned touchdown. Granted, Jackson is about as fast as they get and I'm not sure Sharper in his prime catches him, but none the less he looked slow. For the majority of the game, Sharper looked pedestrial missing a tackle or two and posting 3 tackles. Then, out of nowhere, he picks off a pass and runs it back 97 yards for a touchdown, breaking 2 tackles in the process. One thing is undeniable: this guy is a playmaker. Without a doubt the best pickup the Saints made all offseason. Already 3 INT's in 2 games, this guy is a constant threat to opposing QB's. It's nice to have a guy back there that's not "great potential" and no instincts (see Josh Bullocks, Tebucky Jones etc etc), and have a guy that's all instincts. And you know what? I could have tolerated the mistakes Bullocks et al made if they made half the plays Sharper made. But Sharper doesn't make mistakes, and his playmaking output it two games is equivalent to what you'd see in a season from his predecessors at the Saints' free safety position. I will tell all of you right now that I am more than comfortable with his limitations.


John Carney: B (2.67)
Carney was perfect on 6 extra points and 2 for 2 on two very short field goals. Maybe my grade is a little harsh based on the fact that he did nothing but split the uprights, but he almost missed the second field goal by hooking it just inside the upright. Also, as accurate as he can be, his inability to handle kickoffs is a deficiency in his ability at this point. He wasn't really pushed based on the 8 kicks being inside 30 yard attempts, and honestly I'd expect any kicker to make all of those kicks.

Thomas Morstead: B+ (3.33)
Another solid performance by Morstead. He got a touchback on a kickoff, got good depth, and he punted terrificly. He averaged 50.3 yards on 3 punts, include a 60 yarder and 1 inside the 20. He didn't outpunt his coverage this time and did a good job overall. He did have one kickoff go out of bounds and set up the Eagles at the 40, so that's the reason his grade isn't higher.

Courtney Roby: C+ (2.33)
Saw him notch a tackle as a gunner, so that's a welcome addition. He averaged 24 yards on 3 kickoff returns, nothing special.

Malcolm Jenkins: A- (3.67)
I'm going to give Jenkins his first grade of the season. Seems unfair that he gets such a high grade playing so little perhaps, but his forced fumble to start the second half was that huge. Even then, I probably would've refrained from grading him until he lit up DeSean Jackson on a monstrous Morstead punt for a very short return. Jenkins gets an A- based on the limited action he had in the game, but his special team performance was A+ material. Great to see the Saints 1st rounder making the most of limited chances. Don't forget he also saved a touchdown last week catching a kick returner from behind.


Sunday, September 20, 2009

Saints Nation: Saints blow out Eagles 48-22, move to 2-0

Behind another high scoring output, the Saints went into Philadelphia and dominated the Eagles 48-22. You can review the box score HERE. Check back tomorrow for Saints Nation's grades on each player.

Saints Nation: Pregame Saints @ Eagles

The Philadelphia Eagles will host the Saints today at Lincoln Financial Field for 12 noon Central, 1pm Eastern. Both teams enter the season 1-0 as the Saints and Eagles both won very comfortable games against the Lions and Panthers, respectively.

Out for Saints: Jammal Brown (hip), Darnell Dinkins (ankle), Kendrick Clancy (knee).

One week into the NFL season this matchup will feature the #1 offense in the NFL against the #1 defense in the NFL. The Eagles held the Panthers to just 169 yards last week while the Saints amassed 515 yards against Detroit. The Saints currently rank #7 on defense and the Eagles are #23 on offense. Keep in mind these rankings are based on just one game so they do not mean much, but the fact remains that the Saints-Eagles matchup when the Saints have the ball should be VERY interesting.

It's also been confirmed, Kevin Kolb will start at QB for the Eagles.

Enjoy the game and Geaux Saints!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Saints Nation: Mike Bell is the guy until further notice

We keep being told that Pierre Thomas practice this week. Pierre Thomas keeps insisting that he'll "definitely" play come Sunday. Perhaps he'll suit up, but until Mike Bell starts to struggle or gets injured - the starting tailback job is his to lose.

There is no way the Saints are going to sit Bell down after his stellar preseason performance, followed by his 143 yard season opening rushing performance against the Lions. The bottom line is Mike Bell is flat out better than Pierre Thomas with a banged up knee. Reggie Bush doesn't factor into the reps as a feature tailback - because Payton has designed plays for Bush to get him in mismatches and gimmick plays. Bush is not in the competition to be the running back carrying the bulk of the rushing carries. Sure, he'll get his fare share of snaps behind Brees and occasionally rush the ball, but much like we saw in the era when Deuce and Bush shared responsibilities, the Saints are a two back team. Reggie Bush has his spot as the scat back all sewn up. That means the primary inside runner position which used to belong to Deuce and Pierre Thomas is for the moment in Mike Bell's possession. I don't see that going back to Pierre Thomas when he heals unless Mike Bell slows down. That's not to say Thomas won't play and won't get opportunities when Bush/Bell need a breather or get banged up - but until further notice Mike Bell is the Saints' go to back. Expect to see a whole lot of Bell Sunday and possibly beyond.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Saints Nation Fans Have Spoken: Vilma at MLB for the 1st Team All NFC South

Saints Nation fans have selected Saints' linebacker Jonathan Vilma as the MLB for the All NFC South 1st Team. Thanks for participating, and please select your TWO picks for the All NFC South 1st Team Starting Cornerbacks. You can find the new Saints Nation Poll on the right side of the site.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Saints Nation: Why I Think This Eagles Game is a Must Win

When the schedule gets released and you start crafting ways in your head the Saints will meet the 10-6 or better record, the week 2 @ Philadelphia game is one of those where you think: "ok, they're probably going to lose this one. Hopefully we'll be competitive, and maybe we can steal one away, but realistically that's going to be a tough one to win on the road against a good team". My personal opinion when looking at this game going into the season was - the Saints HAVE to take care of business in week 1 against Detroit and then hope to split a tough road swing @ Philly and @ Buffalo to start the year 2-1. Given the recent injury to Donovan McNabb, though, my opinion has changed. I now believe this is a must win.

For starters, the Eagles carry 4 quarterbacks on their roster and
in all likelihood the Saints will be facing the worst one. Jeff Garcia was signed this week and the turnaround is too short for him to be ready. McNabb has cracked ribs and may be too injured to go. Michael Vick is still serving his suspension from the league, and won't play. So that leaves Kevin Kolb, who's struggled mightily in limited NFL action and preseason play. If Jeff Charleston thought Matt Stafford was "fresh meat", then this guy is no different. The Eagles have made a habit of making the NFC Championship game in recent history and there is an extremely high likelihood they will be in the thick of things come playoff time. That means this game could easily come down to a tiebreaking scenario later in the season, and a Saints win could also springboard a playoff run getting off to a 2-0 start.

In my opinion this game is a MUST WIN for the Saints. The Eagles are in a very vulnerable state given their current quarterback situation, and the Saints HAVE to take advantage of this fact and capitalize on what is a huge opportunity to beat a very good team on the road. This is one of those games where when the dust settles and a disappointing season is over, you reflect: "that was one we should have come away with". This is also one of those games where when the dust settles after a successful season, you reflect "that win was huge for us". Let's face it, if the Saints aren't good enough to beat the Eagles with Kevin Kolb at QB, then I question if they're good enough to make the playoffs or succeed should they get there. I'm not saying the Saints can't have a bad game and rebound to have a great season, but I really do think this test will be a tell tell sign of just how good the Saints are. This will tell us where we stand based on the offseason moves. The Saints losing at Philadelphia when the Eagles are at their best is forgivable, but losing when they are at a severe disadvantage without McNabb would be a lost opportunity. Based on the aspirations I have for the club this year - this game in my opinion is a must win. Geaux Saints.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Saints Nation: Charles Grant and Will Smith play on!

I'm getting pretty sick of reporting on this, and searching for updates is frankly exhausting. It's been the NFL version of the Neverending story (which by the way has an end, I never got that). But at least the Saints got some good news this time. Apparently Roger Goodell has decided it would be unfair to treat Charles Grant and Will Smith differently than the Vikings players who are under the same predicament, yet used Minnesota law to postpone their suspensions. You can read more on the story HERE.

I know what some of you are saying... we're better off with Smith & Grant, they suck, they're overpaid, we're better off just playing Hargrove and McCray. The reality is that Hargrove is very inexperienced and the only thing he's done consistently in his career to this point is screw up. McCray is a terrific pass rusher, better than Grant and arguably better than Smith, but he's a liability against the run. McCray is a terrific luxury to have in pass rushing packages, but he's not an ideal every down end. I'm sorry but I couldn't disagree more with anyone who says we're better off without Smith/Grant. This is HUGE news for the Saints and it means a great deal in their quest for continued success starting Sunday against the Eagles. Now it's up to both players to step up their recently shaky performance and live up to the contracts they signed.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Saints Nation: Breaking News - Courtney Roby re-signed by Saints

Saints Nation has been informed by sources that kick returner Courtney Roby has been re-signed to the Saints. Apparently the Saints were unhappy with their coverage units and kick returning (though I thought Meachem was pretty good) and they've decided to bring back Roby to bolster those areas. No word yet on who was released to make room, but it's possible the Saints expect the Smith/Grant suspensions to be enforced today to make room on the roster for 2 spots. Otherwise, we'll wait and see who was released/placed on IR to make room.

Remember you heard it on Saints Nation first!

Saints Nation: McNabb, Garcia or Kolb?

With the well documented recent rib injury to Donovan McNabb and the recent signing of Jeff Garcia in response to the said injury, the question becomes: who will start at quarterback in week 2 against the Saints? With McNabb, he's been talked about as DOUBTFUL and OUT. I wouldn't rule him out because this is a big game, and the Saints offense is so potent the Eagles may feel they need McNabb to keep them within striking distance. McNabb is known as a tough quarterback, and with rib injuries the risk of making things worse is not necessarily elevated. Sure, it's extremely painful and difficult to deal with - but nothing a cortisone shot and painkillers won't mask for 3 hours.

IF McNabb ends up not playing, the question becomes whether the Eagles would start newly signed veteran Jeff Garcia or settle for the guy that's been through training camp and knows the offense in Kevin Kolb. Don't forget Michael Vick is on this roster too, and an option down the road when he becomes eligible to play in week 3. What the signing of Garcia does tell me is that the Eagles have no trust in Kevin Kolb whatsoever, and they think the development of Michael Vick is off to a slow start. That means if McNabb's injury lasts for any length of time, Garcia would serve as the stopgap until his return. The good news for the Saints is the timing may be too short for Garcia to prepare himself to play. This could mean the Saints will either play a severely banged up McNabb or in Kevin Kolb a guy his team has no faith in. While having their opponent deal with a quarterback situation is a good situation for the Saints going into the weekend, it also makes the game planning much tougher. In all likelihood Andy Reid will take over as the Eric Mangini of the week and hold out making any announcements on his intentions until the 11th hour. We'll see what happens, but given the history of success both Garcia and McNabb have had against the Saints over the course of their careers, matching up against Kevin Kolb would be a welcome change.

Saints Nation Poll: Thomas Davis and Mike Peterson were the picks at Outside Linebacker for the all NFC South 1st team. Please select your choice as the middle linebacker.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Saints Nation: Player Grades vs. Lions

In the wake of the 45-27 blowout victory over the Lions, I've rated the performance of each player that had significant playing time. Over the course of the season I'll be doing this continually and keep an overall cumulative GPA for the players.


Drew Brees - A (4.0)
I would only give an A+ to something I consider a flawless performance. Brees came extremely close to that. The interception he threw was a poor pass into double coverage. He also took a couple huge risks before halftime on passes into the end zone that could have been intercepted, and he missed an easy conversion pass to Henderson on a third and short, skipping it to him. Beyond that, he truly was flawless. The scary thing is I only expect him to get better as he gets more in rhythm deeper into the season. He tied a Saints record with 6 TD passes and torched the Lions' defense seemingly at will.

Mike Bell - A- (3.7)
Take away the fumble that gave the Lions 7 points, and Bell is approaching A+ territory. Bell finished with 28 carries for 143 yards and while he showed flashes of speed, most impressive was his toughness inside and how he finished runs remarkably.

Reggie Bush - D (1.0)
Bush made a terrific play early when he was isolated one on one with Larry Foote. He raced down the sideline and caught a 26 yard pass to set up an early touchdown. It was all downhill from there. Other than a few nice plays in the passing game, Bush's rushing plays were absolutely terrible as he posted 7 carries for 14 yards. On punt returns, Bush featured his trademark backwards running and he fumbled twice, losing it once.

Heath Evans - B+ (3.3)
Evans was solid in run blocking, and spectacular catching the football. He showed soft hands, decent speed, and terrific toughness when the football came his way. He finished with 4 catches for 35, including a screen pass on 3rd and goal from the 13 that he was able to take into the end zone breaking a tackle.

Devery Henderson - A (4.0)
Per his usual, Henderson showed terrific speed. Henderson ended with 5 catches for 103 yards and a touchdown. He was secure catching the football, and extremely dangerous after the catch. One catch that ended a few yards short of a 1st down on a 3rd down play was an attempt by Henderson to bounce outside - and he may have had the 1st if he put his head down and powered straight ahead. Otherwise, Henderson was excellent.

Marques Colston - C+ (2.3)
Colston was off to a terrific start after he caught a high pass from Drew Brees in the end zone and came down with it for 7. From there, Colston's performance was a little disappointing. He finished with 3 catches for 30 yards and had a couple nice snags for first downs, but he also had a couple drops that nearly led to interceptions. Granted, he was hit fairly hard as the ball was being secured on a couple plays, but those are catches he's made in the past.

Lance Moore - B- (2.7)
Moore didn't get see many balls coming his way and ended with 2 catches for 38 yards. Both catches he did make were fantastic grabs in traffic. The second catch in particular was a terrific 20 yard leaping reception with a player draped all over him. Moore did have a chance to grab a similar pass, this time for a touchdown, but was unable to come down with the tough catch.

Robert Meachem - B+ (3.3)
Meachem saw limited action, but made the most of it, catching a 39 yard touchdown from Brees and also turning in a big 12 yard reception for a 1st down. Meachem was also the primary kick returner and posted a solid 24.7 yard average off 6 returns - taking 2 of them past the 40 yard line.

Jeremy Shockey - A- (3.7)
Shockey disappeared late in the game with what Sean Payton described as "dehydration", but before leaving he played well and scored his first two touchdowns as a Saint, including a juggling highlight reception in the back of the end zone. Promising way for Shockey to start the season.

Jermon Bushrod - B- (2.7)
He'll need to clean up some things, but overall he was pretty good. He was beaten around the edge a couple times, but Brees was fantastic at stepping up in the pocket to avoid pressure. Bushrod was pushed back into Mike Bell and responsible for the poor run play that resulted in a fumble and touchdown for the Lions, and had a few lapses in run blocking.

Carl Nicks - A- (3.7)
Nicks absolutely mauled the interior with his impressive run blocking. Bell's success can in large part be attributed to him. He pulled well and got to the edge on a few plays as well. Every time Brees stepped up in the pocket to avoid pressure off the edge, Nicks was making sure Brees didn't take a hit. The one disappointment was a holding call at the 3 yard line that pushed the Saints offense back.

Jahri Evans - A (4.0)
Evans was absolutely fantastic in everything from run blocking to pass blocking. Like Nicks, Brees was protected in the interior very well. On the touchdown pass to Meachem, Evans handled his man for several seconds to give Brees the time he needed. On the touchdown pass to Heath Evans, Jahri pulled hard and threw a terrific lead block that sprung the play. He was also a big reason why Bell was so successful.

Jonathan Goodwin - B+ (3.3)
Got a chance to see Goodwin pull a couple times on screen passes, and each time he looked quick and threw good blocks. He did have a costly false start penalty, but overall he played a good game.

Jon Stinchcomb - B- (2.7)
Stinchcomb had a uncharacteristic false start that would force the Saints into an eventual 3 and out. While his trademark technique on pass blocking was on display, Brees did feel occassional pressure on the edge from Stinchcomb's side. Stinchcomb also missed a block on a couple Reggie Bush running plays that results in Bush getting stacked up at the line.

Zach Strief - B (3.0)
Strief ending up getting a lot of reps coming in as the #2 blocking tight end on a number of running plays. That actually worked well because it basically gave the Saints a 6th offensive lineman and helped Bell get the push to run off tackle. He also stepped in for Bushrod on a couple series when Bushrod bruised his knee and did a reasonably good job.


Charles Grant - D (1.0)
Other than a couple decent plays on running downs, especially down at the goal line, Grant was almost invisible. He ended up with 1 tackle, and got absolutely no pressure all day on Matt Stafford. We're going to need to see more from him.

Will Smith - C (2.0)
Quiet day for Smith, who ended with 3 tackles. Smith did get in Stafford's face and knock him down at least twice, and he at times looked pretty good in run support, but I would have liked to see more out of him. On the touchdown run by Kevin Smith he bit hard on the fake and was left with no chance to catch Smith who walked into the end zone.

Sedrick Ellis - B- (2.7)
Ellis had just one tackle on the day, but he did a good job plugging up the middle and limiting the Lions' rushing attack. Ellis also tipped a pass on a 3rd down play and stood up Kevin Smith at the goal line before ripping the ball out and running 15 yards with it. The officials ruled Smith down on the play, but it was still a head's up effort by Ellis.

Kendrick Clancy - B- (2.7)
Clancy was an unsung hero in this game. He had just 1 tackle, but he paved the way for exceptional linebacker play. He was solid in plugging the gaps and forcing Kevin Smith outside.

Scott Shanle - A- (3.7)
I've been as critical of Shanle as the next guy over the years, but he had arguably his best game as a Saint yesterday. On a third and 1 play he did a FANTASTIC job of keeping containment, thus not allowing Kevin Smith to bounce outside and then made an outstanding open field tackle to hit Smith for a loss short of the first down. His tackling in the open field and his run pursuit was very good. In passing situations he was solid as well, and he even intercepted a pass (first of his career).

Scott Fujita - B+ (3.3)
Fujita was active, and tough. He ended up tied for the team lead with 7 tackles, and never made any major mistakes. While unspectacular, Fujita's calling card has always been reliable and solid play.

Jonathan Vilma - B+ (3.3)
Vilma notched the only sack of the day for the Saints, and his pursuit sideline to sideline was good. He was active against the run, but ended with a pedestrial 4 tackles on the day. I expect Vilma to get better and better as the season progresses. He also had 2 defended passes.

Jabari Greer - B+ (3.3)
Greer was pretty solid tackling and very solid playing the ball. His coverage overall was excellent. He was matched up with Calvin Johnson almost the entire day and held the superstar in check. The 64 yard pass play to Johnson came the play after Greer was banged up and helped off the field. This said, he could have been more exposed by a more accurate quarterback.

Tracy Porter - B (3.0)
Porter ended with 7 tackles, tied for the team lead. He made a couple nice tackles in the open field, but he was also beaten on a couple pass plays. Overall his performance was promising, but again a more accurate quarterback could have given him problems. It seemed that the few 3rd down conversions the Lions got were on Porter. He also missed a tackle on a screen pass to Smith that turned into a big gain.

Roman Harper - B (3.0)
Harper was really good in run support, but was replaced by Chris Reis later in the game for unknown reasons. Perhaps he was banged up, but nothing was mentioned on the injury report. On pass plays he was quiet, but he played pretty well around the box ending with 6 tackles.

Darren Sharper - A- (3.7)
The one play that I wasn't happy with was a missed tackle on Calvin Johnson that sprung his big 64 yard reception. Beyond that, he was as good as advertized. The ballhawk showed everyone why the Saints got him in the offseason. For the first time since Sammy Knight I felt the Saints had a guy back there that could make plays, and needed to be accounted for. What a nice upgrade from the days of Kevin Kaesviharn and Josh Bullocks. He ended with 2 interceptions and 2 defended passes.


John Carney - C+ (2.3)
He was perfect on 6 extra points, and went 1 for 2 on field goals. He connected on a 39 yarder right down the middle, but had a 34 yarder blocked right before halftime. It was disappointing the Saints couldn't convert on that field goal. I didn't get a chance to catch who missed a block, but I can't blame Carney too much for that play because a Lions' player busted through the line almost untouched to get a hand on the ball.

Thomas Morstead B+ (3.3)
He did average 48 yards on two punts, but twice outkicked his coverage to set up decent returns. One return in particular was almost taken to the house. He also got the surprise assignment of kicking off and handled that job very well. He had 3 touchbacks, and was routinely getting the ball inside the Lions' 5 at a minimum.


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Saints Nation: Saints trounce Lions 45-27 behind Brees' 6 TD passes

Drew Brees tied a New Orleans Saints record throwing for 6 touchdown passes in the Saints 45-27 win over the Detroit Lions. The record was previously owned by Billy Kilmer for his 6 TD pass performance in 1969. The win runs the Saints record to 1-0, and puts them atop the NFC South standing. The Falcons also won, 19-7 over the Dolphins, but the Saints are currently ahead of them based on getting a conference win. The Panthers lost badly to the Eagles, and the Buccaneers were beaten by the Cowboys behind a very solid Tony Romo performance. Check back tomorrow for my grades on each player. You can check out the box score HERE. The Saints will travel to Philadelphia next week to take on the Eagles. The Eagles, as previously mentioned, looked very impressive in their 38-10 blowout win over the Panthers. They forced 5 Jake Delhomme turnovers, but Donovan McNabb did leave late in the 4th quarter with what appears to be cracked ribs.

Saints Nation: Pregame vs. Lions

The regular season kicks off today for the Saints in their matchup against the Detroit Lions in the Louisiana Superdome. Game time is 12 noon Central, 1pm Eastern.

Out for the Saints: Jammal Brown (hip), Pierre Thomas (knee), Darnell Dinkins (ankle).

The Saints will host in week 1 the Lions who went 0-16 last year. Dating back to 2007 they've lost 17 consecutive regular season matchups. This is a gimme and must win for the Saints. Last year behind 532 yards of offense, the Saints beat Detroit 42-7. The Lions has since drafted Matt Stafford at quarterback, who will start ahead of Daunte Culpepper for the first game. As the 30th ranked offense in the NFL last year, this should be a good way for the Saints' new defense to start. On the defensive side, The Lions ranked dead last last year as well as points given up, so it's a terrific matchup for the Saints and their potent offense. The Saints really cannot afford to lose this one. The Lions figure to be slightly improved defensively with the offseason additions of veterans Philip Buchannon, Grady Jackson, Larry Foote, and Anthony Henry - but it should still be a weakness.

The Lions also have a few players Saints fans will be familiar with in former Saint Terrelle Smith, former LSU guard Stephen Peterman, and Daniel Bullocks, brother of former Saint Josh Bullocks.

Saints Nation's Prediction: Saints 27, Lions 17. I think this game will be closer than some people think. I think Calvin Johnson will make some plays, and I think the Lions will be in the game down a possession with the ball in the 4th quarter. Ultimately I think Stafford's inexperience will lead to a late turnover, but I expect the Saints to struggle a little bit early offensively before finding their rhythm and I expect their defense to give up a few plays.

Enjoy the game! I'll be in the Superdome and I'll be catching a flight directly afterward... so I'll do my best to update asap. Once I have a chance to review game tape I will post my grade for each starter on their performance.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Saints Nation: The season starts tomorrow, time to look out for Calvin Johnson

Take the Cardinals' run to the SuperBowl last year riding on the back of Larry Fitzgerald as evidence: a superstar receiver can carry a team with a mediocre defense and an anemic running game to unlikely wins. While the Saints enter tomorrow's game overwhelming favorites to start the year 1-0, the Lions can still be dangerous and should not be taken lightly. Calvin Johnson is quickly proving his worth, and given the Saints recent history of atrocious pass defense, the Saints may not have as easy of a time as some of us may think. The Saints ability to limit his production will go a very long way in securing a win. The 17 game losing streak the Lions own going into this game should be disregarded, because the roster overhaul that team witnessed in the offseason yielded a very different squad. Who knows what Matt Stafford will look like in his debut as a quarterback, but he was picked 1st overall for a reason. If the Saints want to win this game, slowing down Calvin Johnson and creating turnovers will be paramount.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Saints Nation: Pierre Thomas officially listed as "out"

Pierre Thomas is now officially listed as "out" for the Lions game Sunday. Expect Reggie Bush to get the lion share, no pun intended, of the carries. I think Mike Bell will get reps sprinkled in, but Reggie will get his chance to carry the load. Darnell Dinkins and Jammal Brown are also "out", whereas Usama Young has practice and will play. You can check out the entire injury report for the upcoming games this weekend HERE

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Saints Nation: Jammal Brown out longer than expected?

In addition to suffering from a sports hernia, Jammal Brown is apparently suffering a hip condition. According to Times Picayune reporter Jeff Duncan's twitter account, Jammal Brown is now scheduled for surgery on his hip that will keep him out until "at least week 6". The Saints have a bye week in week 5, so the hope is that he could perhaps return after that. Tough break for the offensive line that will now need to rely on Jermon Bushrod for longer than expected at left tackle. Let's hope he's up to the task, but it's definitely a cause for concern. Having an inexperienced left tackle fill in for a pro bowler to cover our franchise's blind side for an extended period is scary. I just hope Bushrod is up to the task.

Saints Nation: NFL Season starts today!

Titans @ Steelers is on the menu tonight as the NFL season kicks off. Are you guys ready for NFL football? Enjoy the game and soak in the inauguration to what I hope will be a magical Saints run in 2009.

Saints news: Pierre Thomas did not practice today, making his status for the Lions game extremely doubtful. I'm starting to wonder if he may be out a few weeks with this lingering knee issue.


You can read a cool blog post from Saints fullback Heath Evans HERE
Rickey Jackson will appear at the Superdome's Hall of Fame Museum on gameday between 10am and 11:15am (link)
Sean Payton's Thursday press conference: HERE
An article on Jermon Bushrod's first start: HERE

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Saints Nation: The Never Ending StarCaps Saga

Both Charles Grant and Will Smith (both pictured) will play Sunday against the Lions. Once again the looming 4 game suspension that undoubtedly awaits both of them is postponed. Eventually they'll most likely have to serve the said suspensions, and I'm frankly getting annoyed that they're still looking over their shoulder waiting for it to happen. First off, why didn't Charles Grant just revoke his appeal and serve the suspension while he was hurt last year? Both players play the same position, so staggering the suspensions would have been to the team's advantage, as it would have cushioned the blow of missing their star players. At this point the players seem resigned to the fact that fighting the NFL's decision is a lost cause. I just don't see the point in extending this any longer. The deeper into the season we get, the more we'll need these guys healthy and available. Right now we're looking at having both players out from week 2 through week 6 (week 5 is a bye). What if it ends up getting pushed back further? What if they end up serving the suspension in a must win division game? Get it over with and serve the suspension already, guys. If we can't beat the Lions without Charles Grant and Will Smith, we have other issues to worry about.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Saints Nation: Matt Stafford to start for Lions

Lions' coach Jim Schwartz named Matt Stafford as his starting QB early this week (source), meaning he'll lead the Lions against the Saints in New Orleans on Sunday. I couldn't be happier with the news, to be honest. Stafford has struggled in preseason with a 52.8 passer rating, a 54.5 completion %, and a 1 touchdown 4 interception tally. While banged up, 2nd string Daunte Culpepper has by comparison compiled a 89.6 rating, 64.7 completion %, and a 1 touchdown o interception total. Stafford was also sacked three times, and Culpepper only once. Hard to see how based on those numbers Stafford went out there and "won" the starting job. Like any rookie QB, it's going to be a learning experience for Stafford. While rookie QB's like Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco had immediate success last year - Stafford doesn't have the luxury of Michael Turner in his backfield or the Baltimore defense on the other side of the ball. He's going to struggle, and who better than the Saints defense to face him first? Based on the number of turnovers the defense created in preseason, I'm hoping Stafford will be as prone. Culpepper from experience alone is much more of a threat to the Saints, and I'm happy we'll be benefiting from Stafford's growing pains.

Saints Nation: My plan for the weekend

As the football season is officially starting, I'm preparing myself for the season opener against the Lions. My upcoming weekend looks something like this:

Leave Thursday at 8:16pm and arrive into New Orleans at 11:25pm.

Friday - Hang out in New Orleans. Eat shrimp Po-Boys. Drink Abita. Go to a nice dinner downtown.

Saturday - Drive to Baton Rouge. Eat more shrimp Po-Boys. Tailgate. Go to LSU-Vanderbilt. Celebrate an LSU victory with Abita.

Sunday - Get up early and drive back to New Orleans. Go to Saints-Lions game at Superdome. Celebrate the season opening victory with a shrimp po-boy and Abita beer.

Monday - Get up at 6:30am travel back to get ready for work. Schedule a couple tennis matches for the week to burn off the calorie intake from the weekend.

It's fun packed - and don't lie I know you're jealous.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Saints Nation Fans Have Spoken: Clancy and Ellis to 1st Team All NFC South Team

Seriously? Ellis and Clancy are the best 2 DT's in the NFC South? Hey, it's up to you the fans, and I expect favortism... Next up is the outsiders backers. We'll see if you guys pick Scott Shanle as the best in the NFC South.

Saints Nation: Saints announce practice squad

The Saints announced their 8 man practice squad, and you'll recognize all the names as players recently cut from the team to make room for the 53 man roster. All the names, that is, except one. The one player the Saints have added to the team that was not on board previously is former Missouri Quarterback Chase Daniel (pictured), who when released by the Redskins and opted to sign with the Saints practice squad instead of Washington's (source). Considering the Saints go into the season with 2 quarterbacks on their roster, this is a great pickup. He's a young and promising quarterback with an incredibly successful college career, and he'll be able to learn the system behind some of the finest pedigree of NFL veterans in Drew Brees and Mark Brunell. Hopefully many of you are as excited as I am about the possible future development of this newest Saint.

The other 7 players to make the Saints' practice squad are: WR Adrian Arrington, G Tim Duckworth, CB Danny Gorrer, HB P.J. Hill, T Jermey Parnell (who also tried out at DE and TE), DT DeMario Pressley and WR Matt Simon (source). I'm a little sad to not see Herb Donaldson on this list, but glad that the Saints we're able to hold onto Arrington, Gorrer, Hill and Pressley especially. Those 4 could end up getting called up if there's injuries to the players ahead of them and I believe they could contribute this season if needed.

Happy Labor Day Saints fans!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Saints Nation: Thoughts on New Orleans Saints' Final Cuts

Adrian Arrington (pictured) appeared to be right in looking over his shoulder, as Rod Harper beat him out for a roster spot. In light of the final cuts yesterday - there were no shocks, but there were a few surprises. The biggest surprise to me was that Charles Grant and Will Smith may go into week 1 as eligible to play. I assumed it was a foregone conclusion that the two would begin the season suspended for the banned substance they tested positive for last year and be out for 4 weeks. Apparently with the appeals process ongoing, the NFL is waiting to let things play out before enforcing the suspensions. In terms of roster significance, that was to the detriment of Paul Spicer and DeMario Pressley. I have to believe those two were the two players cut based on the fact that Smith and Grant are still active. Spicer was slated to start at end for week 1, and Pressley's departure leaves the depth at interior defensive line extremely thin. Another mild surprise for me was that Jonathan Casillas made the team. While deserved, the Saints are keeping a high number of linebackers at 7.

It was NOT a surprise for me to see Adrian Arrington and Courtney Roby cut. The Saints wanted to go with 5 receivers, and there was no way Rod Harper was NOT making this team based on his performance in preseason. It's too bad Arrington couldn't stay healthy, and the Saints will miss the luxury of Roby's kick return ability - but there just wasn't room for them. The release of Joey Harrington is even less surprising given his horrendous performance in extended action against the Dolphins in the final preseason game. The Saints have gone into every season the last 3 years with only 2 QB's on the roster, and I've thought all along that Harrington would have to show something pretty special to be kept around.

The trade for David Thomas comes as no shock, of course, because with Dan Campbell and Billy Miller on IR the Saints were desperate for help behind Shockey. Don't forget Darnell Dinkins may miss week 1 as well with ankle problems.

The rest is about exactly as I expected. Too bad for PJ Hill, but he was caught in a numbers game and hopefully he can clear waivers and make the practice squad. The one area of concern I have with the release of Harrington is that he was the primary holder on field goals and extra points. Brunell, being left handed, is not ideal to handle that job. As much as the kicking game struggled in preseason, adding a new primary holder to the mix is another factor that will upset timing and comfort for Jason Kyle, John Carney and Garrett Hartley. We'll see how that plays out.

Below are the 8 players I envision the Saints targeting for the practice squad should they clear waivers:

CB Danny Gorrer
WR Adrian Arrington
HB PJ Hill
HB Herb Donaldson
DT DeMario Pressley
G Tim Duckworth
LB Anthony Waters (not sure if he's eligible)
TE Jermey Parnell