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.