Thursday, December 31, 2009

Saints Nation: How Much Do the Saints Miss Heath Evans?

With the recent troubles the Saints have had running the football, specifically in the second half against the Buccaneers this past weekend, I got myself to thinking: Just how much do the Saints miss injured fullback Heath Evans? Evans was lost for the season when he injured his knee against the Miami Dolphins after having up to that point an outstanding season. Evans' injury has not been talked about much since it happened, and his departure has been somewhat under the radar. You cannot argue that Evans was a catalyst in the running game when he was healthy, but how much has the running game suffered without him?

I pulled up the stats for the Saints running the football and their yards per carry with and without Evans and the results were interesting:

6 games with Heath Evans: 154.3 rushing yards per game, 4.61 yards per carry, 33.5 carries per game.

9 games without Heath Evans: 118.7 rushing yards per game, 4.54 yards per carry, 26.1 carries per game.

So there is no question that the Saints are running the ball less effectively across the board, but from the numbers it looks like it's more from running the ball less than it is missing Evans. The yards per carry difference: 4.61 vs. 4.54 is fairly negligible, but the carries per game (33.5 vs. 26.1) difference is astronomical. Granted, the Saints are running less in large part due to falling behind early in a number of those 9 games compared to building big leads early in their first 6. That said, the Saints had more success scoring early in games when Heath Evans was a part of the offense. Coincidence or related, it's hard to say. The bottom line is the Saints' running game isn't going as well in recent games, but the yards per carry has stayed virtually the same, so the Saints aren't running the football enough.

So who's to blame? Coaching? Heath Evans' injury? Decline in defensive performance? I'm inclined to say it's some combination of the three. But while Heath Evans is unquestionably being missed, it's perhaps by a little less than I would have guessed.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Saints Nation: Saints sign two players, release two players

Defensive tackle Rodney Leisle (pictured) is back with the team that originally drafted him in the New Orleans Saints. The Saints signed him and also brought back tight end Tory Humphrey. To make room they let go of Greg Fassitt and Herana-Daze Jones. Due to those two players being released, it must mean Jabari Greer and Randall Gay are both on the mend and may be ready to play as soon as this weekend.

The story on this announcement can be found HERE.

In other news, Scott Fujita has been voted as the Saints' Man of the Year.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Saints Nation: 5 Saints Selected to Pro Bowl, But Will Smith not One of Them

5 Saints were selected to the Pro Bowl tonight, but the most surprising news what that Will Smith somehow got snubbed despite posting a career high 13 sacks through 16 games. Talk about being robbed, I don't think Trent Cole or Julius Peppers deserved the nod over Smith based on their play this year. There is no way you can convince me Cole is a more complete end than Smith, and Peppers has 10.5 sacks this season (vs. 13 for Smith).

That said, congrats to: Drew Brees, Jahri Evans, Jon Stinchcomb, Jonathan Vilma and Darren Sharper. This is the first Pro Bowl trip for both Evans and Stinchcomb. The Pro Bowl will be held the week before the SuperBowl this year, with the SuperBowl team players no participating in the game... so hopefully all five of our guys will sit out the game!

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

Below are the player grades for defense and special teams. I'm glad to be done with this so we can now just move on and talk about the future. The Saints are still capable of going out on any given Sunday and taking it to whatever opponent they have in front of them. Hopefully they'll save their best grades for the playoffs. The letter grades represent the player's performance in the game, and the GPA represents the player's cumulative effort on the season. Sidenote, I went back and updated the GPA's for the offense, so feel free to go back and check that out if you're curious.

Buccaneers vs Saints coverage
Buccaneers vs Saints recap
Buccaneers vs Saints boxscore

Will Smith: B+ (2.84) Will Smith showed a lot of effort and intensity. He rushed the passer with a never quit attitude and he was seen often racing downfield to help his teammates finish plays. He finished with 7 tackles, including a sack and another one for a loss. What a season it's been for him, the Saints are lucky to have him.

Charles Grant: A- (2.13) Where did this monster of a game come from? Not only did Grant play out of his mind, he was very animated and vocal throughout. Maybe he's back on his StarCaps water pills? After I called him out for being a lazy slob, he's responded nicely. I still don't think he'll be around next year, but if he can perform like this when it matters most (in the playoffs) Grant may get on my good side. He finished with 8 tackles and a sack. His biggest play, though, was batting down a Josh Freeman pass on a 4th and 1 roll out. Grant did a fantastic job of night biting on the play fake and got great pursuit to stop any chance of a Freeman bootleg, then got his hands up to bat the pass. Huge play, and had the Saints won it would have been the game changer.

Bobby McCray: D (1.93) I think I've given up on this guy making an impact. What a miserable season for the pass rushing specialist. There's only so much you can do in limited reps, but this guy is doing nothing. Zero. Nada.

Sedrick Ellis: B (2.73) Watching the game tape, the defensive line actually did a decent job all night. They were active and put the linebackers in a position to make plays. I felt like the Cadillac blowup was more a function of broken assignments by the linebackers and poor tackling at the second level. Ellis had mixed results, but he had plenty of action. 6 tackles on the day.

Remi Ayodele: B- (2.41) He finished with 3 tackles and held his ground well at times, while struggling at other times. Nothing special but again was not the one missing plays.

Anthony Hargrove: B (2.26) Hargrove played by and large on passing downs, which is where he belonged. I felt like he was actually used in favorable situations, for once, and he performed well. He finished with 3 tackles and a sack, and did a good job rushing Freeman and forcing him out of the pocket.

Jonathan Vilma: C+ (2.98) Vilma did have 6 tackles, but he also got blocked out of a number of plays. He had chances at stopping Carnell Williams without success on numerous occasions. He also came up with some nice short yardage stops, but it seemed like his game was very up and down.

Scott Fujita: C+ (2.81) Like Vilma, he looked a little slow and out-muscled. He also had 6 tackles, but many of those were by jumping on the pile. He helped his teammates, and I like that because he was setting a good example to finish plays, but his play just wasn't nearly as physical as what I'm used to with him.

Jonathan Casillas: B- (2.67) Casillas was all over the field and had major positives and major negatives throughout. He was an up and down rollercoaster. Unlike Fujita and Vilma, who were both largely passable but unimpressive, Casillas was either incredibly solid or incredibly limited. Casillas was blitzed numerous times and specifically twice whiffed badly on Freeman to allow big scrambles that hurt the Saints on plays he could have made. He did a great job running sideline to sideline, though, and attacking the football. He showed nice instincts and sometimes had the ability to make an open field play. He finished with 10 tackles in his first career NFL start. Comparing him to Shanle, he was a lot more flashy, but also more mistake prone.

Tracy Porter: B- (3.09) Porter gave his receiver more cushion than usual and was more shaky in his tackling. He overall didn't seem to play as well as a week ago, but then came one of the most athletic interceptions I've seen by a Saint in a long time. He killed a Buccaneer drive with a leaping box out catch in the end zone. He finished with 6 tackles and that pick, but could've played tighter in coverage.

Malcolm Jenkins: D (2.33) The Bucs found Jenkins wherever he was on the field, and victimized him over and over and over again. Especially late when the Saints needed stops, huge chunks of yards were given up by the mediocre at best Tampa Bay receiving crew. His tackling was thankfully solid otherwise he may have looked even worse, but the bottom line is the guy is a liability out there right now and he's being picked on unmercifully. He finished with 10 tackles, largely due to the amount of action coming his way.

Mike McKenzie: B- (2.13) McKenzie had limited action due to the Bucs largely staying with 2 receiver sets, but when he played he mostly did pretty well. He was attacked on a deep route late and had textbook coverage staying in front of his man and forcing an incompletion. He was mostly assigned to Maurice Stovall who's a bigger, possession receiver, so that ended up being a decent matchup for McKenzie because he wasn't getting beat vertically. He had just one tackle.

Roman Harper: C+ (2.78) As I'm typing this, Jay Cutler just threw an overtime TD pass to clinch the top NFC Seed for the Saints. SWEET! It makes typing this much more bearable :) Harper had 6 tackles, laid some wood, but also struggled in pass defense. Luckily Jenkins was so bad that the Bucs took it easy on Harper, though.

Darren Sharper: B (2.83) Sharper played well at times, but over-pursued and looked very slow at others. He missed some bad tackles, but he was also a savior on the back end a few times as well, stopping decent gains from turning into huge gains. He had an interception early that he ran back for 21 yards. He was fortunate to be in the right place on a terrible throw by Freeman, but he showed good hands and broke a INT yardage for the season NFL record in the process. Impressive. He finished with 7 tackles.

Marvin Mitchell: B- (2.50) Mitchell came in from time to time as the second linebacker in a 3-4 scheme to give the Bucs a different look. The formation was largely ineffective against the run especially, but that wasn't really Mitchell's fault. He had 2 tackles and didn't make any real mistakes.

Garrett Hartley: D- (2.50) He was 1 for 2 on field goals, but his make was a 28 yarder than any NFL kicker could be fired for missing, and with the game on the line he chocked on a 37 yard chip shot. He completely shanked a chance to seal the game. Too bad, because I was excited about that opportunity for him. Hopefully he can build on the experience.

Thomas Morstead: D+ (2.91) Morstead gave the Bucs decent field position after kickoffs due to his unusual struggles with kickoff depth. I don't think he got one back into the end zone, which was too surprising. He did have one beautiful and high punt pinned inside the five, but that all went to shambles when he set up the game tying punt return for a touchdown with an atrocious, low hanging, short punt. Michael Spurlock was able to field the punt on the run cleanly and run about 10 yards before making a guy miss. Morstead also had a shot at saving the touchdown but was wiped out by a referee. He averaged just 40.3 yards per punt off of 4 punts, and you guys don't even want to know what his net was after that punt return. Not good.

Courtney Roby: C+ (2.88) Roby struggled returning kicks, averaging just 21.7 yards off 3 returns. He never really got a chance to blow one up or set the Saints up in good field position. True to form, though, Roby was useful in other areas of special teams. When everyone else in the coverage units frankly played lousy, Roby pinned a punt inside the 5 and also had a nice coverage tackle.

My Defensive Player of the Game: Charles Grant
My Special Teams Player of the Game: Courtney Roby

Monday, December 28, 2009

Saints Nation: The NFC Playoffs Go Through New Orleans!

Thanks to Jay Cutler and the Bears, who beat the Vikings 36-30 in overtime moments ago, the Saints have clinched the top seed in the NFC with a 13-2 record. Regardless of Sunday's outcome @ Carolina, the Saints will have the best record in the NFC and will host games in the Superdome all the way up to the NFC Championship should the make it that far. For the first time in NFL history, "The NFC playoffs go through New Orleans". Has a nice ring to it, doesn't it? It takes the sting out of the gut kick Tampa game a little bit. Granted, the Saints have their own problems to deal with, fix and improve upon and this isn't the way we would have want to earn this, BUT this is a major goal and accomplishment for the Saints to cap a magical season. Never has a Saints team been this good or accomplished this regular season feat. Now it's time for our boys to focus on their game and get this thing rolling! The playoffs will be in New Orleans! WHO DAT.

Saints Nation: Offensive Player Grades vs. Buccaneers

My apologies for the delay, I was drowning my sorrows in the French Quarter following this shocking defeat. Below are the grades for the player's performances. You'll notice the GPA for the season I typically include is missing, I'll have to update that once I get back to my sweet dorky excel file that calculates them. Unfortunately it didn't make the Christmas trip with me to New Orleans.
Buccaneers vs Saints coverage
Buccaneers vs Saints recap
Buccaneers vs Saints boxscore

Drew Brees: B+ Brees was fine. Statistically he was mostly outstanding, though he only had 258 yards to show for 32 completions. He was accurate, finishing 32-37 and at one point completing 19 straight passes. That said, he took little risks downfield and settled way to often for the short throw. He had good pocket presence and did not turn the ball over. He threw a pretty 30 yard touchdown pass to a wide open Meachem for his lone TD toss.

Reggie Bush: B Reggie was a good outlet once again in the passing game and he made the most of his two carries, rushing for 16 yards. His yards per carry recently have been astronomical. I'm surprised he doesn't get more handoffs, especially with Bell and Pierre both banged up. I guess Reggie isn't 100% either so that may explain part of it. He had 6 catches for a pedestrian 37 yards and he also had a nice punt return of 14 yards.

Lynell Hamilton: C- Hamilton got a significant amount of reps, mostly in the second half after Pierre Thomas bruised his ribs. He finished with 21 yards on 7 carries and was stacked up numerous times. Take away the impressive 19 yard scamper he had, and that's actually 2 yards on 6 carries. He did convert a third and short which keeps him out of D territory. It wasn't all his fault as the offensive line did a poor job as the game progressed, but he just didn't get the job done. He also had 2 catches for 10 yards.

Mike Bell: C- 7 carries for 20 yards. Not an impressive stat line at all for the "closer". With the Saints up 17-0 you would figure Bell would get many opportunities to close the game and he just didn't. I don't think he's 100% and the Saints maybe went a little conservative by minimizing his reps thinking they could coast to a win without him, but they were wrong and Bell never really got going in limited action.

Pierre Thomas: A- He performed at a "A" level while he was in, but hard to give him that since he left the game so early. He was having a significant impact prior to leaving with bruised ribs, and it's too bad because perhaps he would have been the difference had he remained playing. He walked into the end zone untouched on an 8 yard run thanks to a huge hole, and he also tore off a quick and powerful 26 yard run. He was tough to bring down and ran with uncanny authority. He finished with 60 yards on just 6 carries and was a big part of the 17-0 lead the Saints established in the early going.

Marques Colston: B- He made two just SICK catches in particular, reaching down to haul in low passes by Brees. He finished with a respectable 8 catches for 77 yards and was heavily involved in the game. Unfortunately his lost fumble was incredibly costly as it killed a drive that likely would have put the game out of reach. Colston cost his team dearly with that turnover, so it's hard to give him a better grade based on that mistake.

Devery Henderson: B- Henderson didn't drop a pass, but he also didn't make any plays downfield. He finished with 5 catches for 35 yards. He helped move the chains at times but was involved in the passing game going way too much underneath all game long.

Robert Meachem: B+ Meachem finished with 5 catches for 66 yards and a touchdown. His 30 yard touchdown was a nice route where he completely burned his man on a nice play fake to get completely wide open. It was set up nicely as he was the only receiver and the Saints had Strief, Eckel, Bell and Dinkins in the game. It looked like an obvious running play, and the Bucs stacked the line. Brees sold a beautiful fake to Bell and Meachem toasted his man. Meachem deserves credit, of course, but Sean Payton dialed up a perfect play at the perfect time and caught the Bucs with their pants down. He also took a reverse for 7 yards on the opening play of the game.

Darnell Dinkins: C- With the game on the line down the stretch, the Saints would move David Thomas to fullback and Dinkins at tight end. Those two just didn't come up with the blocks they needed when the Saints needed it the most. Dinkins is also a complete non factor in the passing game.
David Thomas: C- Thomas finished with just 25 yards on 5 catches. It seemed like anytime he got the ball he went down way too easily. His ability to break tackles was weak and he looked incredibly slow. As much as he was a perfect fill in for Shockey last weak, he made me miss the animated tight end this week. As mentioned above, he did a poor job lead blocking down the stretch.

Jermon Bushrod: B Nice bounce back for Bushrod after having his worst game of the season. Both the pass protection and run blocking were pretty good. It was nice to see him rebound. He faced a backup fill in in Kyle Moore and mostly had his way with him.

Carl Nicks: B- At times he was great, others not so much. The Saints ran behind him often with mixed results. Pass protection was good.

Jonathan Goodwin: C+ Deserves credit for blowing up a massive hole for Pierre Thomas on the touchdown run. I'm confident I would have scored on that play. I also feel like he needs to be commended for never really screwing up his snaps. As many low snaps as Jeff Faine had out of the shotgun hiking to Josh Freeman, we never have that problem with Goodwin. Beyond that, though, he whiffed on too many blocks and did a bad job pulling on screen passes. Every time the Saints ran a screen it was blown up, and he's the main man that usually springs those for nice gains. His blocking down the stretch was not good enough.

Jahri Evans: B- It's hard to criticize the O-line too much because at the end of the day the Saints rushed for 124 yards and 5.4 yards per carry. That stat is misleading, though, because most of that yardage came in the first half and the Saints couldn't run the ball when they needed to most. Surprisingly the aging Chris Hovan gave Evans fits, and this was not one of his better games.

Jon Stinchcomb: C- Stinchcomb was responsible for the lone sack Brees took, and he was by far the most lacking on the pass protection front. Whenever there was pressure, Stinchcomb was usually responsible. As always Brees felt his way away from danger, as I feel that most quarterbacks would have been sacked at least 3 times in that game. He also didn't have a memorable impact in the running game.

Zach Strief: B- Strief was actually productive. When he came in the Saints had reasonable success rushing around the edges. I wish they had used him more.

Kyle Eckel: B- Eckel did a good job on a pass play of getting a first down and stretching out for his lone 8 yard reception. He got some action lead blocking, too, with mixed results. He's not a pure mauling lead blocker, though, and the injury to Heath Evans is something the Saints have yet to recover fully from.

My Offensive Player of the Game: Pierre Thomas

Saints Lose to Bucs

Well I'm sitting here in my bed, still trying to understand what exactly happened. Forgive me but I'm still a little shell shocked. I know some of you come here for news, some of you come here for insight, and some of you come here for amusement... The bottom line is that I think I need time to digest what happened. I was unfortunate enough to go to the game in person, and I'm having a hard time making sense of what happened. Talk to you guys when I'm ready to come up with player grades...

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Saints Nation: Bucs @ Saints matchup

As the Saints prepare to host the Bucs tomorrow, my goal for the home team is simple: Play well early and get up early. I don't want the Bucs to hang around or get any sense they can hang with the Saints. Even though I'll be in attendance, I'm not looking for a close entertaining game. I'm hoping for a blowout, and for the Saints to show they are serious about looking ahead.

Check out THIS ARTICLE I wrote on Canal Street Chronicles. With a win the Saints clinch homefield advantage throughout the playoffs, and week 17's matchup @ Carolina will be nothing more than a glorified scrimmage. We DO NOT want to go into Carolina needing anything more than minimal injuries. It's time for the Saints to show they mean business. What is your score prediction?

Friday, December 25, 2009

Saints Nation: Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from Saints Nation!

I hope the Who Dat Nation enjoys a safe, healthy, and fun filled holiday and enjoyed what is hopefully time off work for most of you. Thank you for your support of Saints Nation!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Saints Nation: Darren Sharper in the mix for 2009 NFL Defensive MVP?

Current Saint players Darren Sharper (pictured) and Will Smith got a little national attention today, as they were both mentioned in a story on (go HERE to read the story). The story lists Sharper as one of the top 3 contenders for the NFL's top defender of the year award, along with Darrelle Revis and Charles Woodson. Will Smith was also mentioned in the article as an "under the radar" player having a strong season. As the article suggests, Sharper's play over the last 5 games may have seriously hurt his chances at winning the award, but he's still very much in the discussion. Sharper will likely need a couple big games to end the season to have any shot at earning the coveted award. One thing that's undeniable, though, is that both players will receive invites to the Pro Bowl. That's a testament to the kind of season they are having, and the huge role they've both played in the defense's big 2009 turn around.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Saints Nation: Saints Say Goodbye to John Carney

The Saints said goodbye to John Carney for the second time today as the released the veteran kicker. This move was expected based on the fact that Garrett Hartley was serviceable, and the fact that they weren't just going keep around two kickers indefinitely on the 53 man roster with one inactive each week. Especially when we've been dealing with the injuries, the writing was on the wall for Carney. Let's face it, Hartley is the team's future at kicker. Still, it's sad to see Carney go because he has performed fairly well with the Saints over the years. Also, while he was shaky he did convert on a respectable 13 of 17 field goal attempts. The job is now Hartley's to keep.

The Saints also apparently waived newly signed cornerback Marcus McCauley in favor of available safety Herana-Daze Jones.

Story HERE.

Saints Nation: Saints Make a Couple Roster Moves

Per's transaction page, the Saints brought back fullback Kyle Eckel to the active roster and signed tight end Tory Humphrey. Humphrey is a 4th year player with 11 career receptions, all last year with the Green Bay Packers.

To make room for them, the only official move at this point is that fullback Marcus Mailei (pictured) has been placed on injured reserve. I'm not sure how he injured himself, but he did make a tackle on special teams last week in limited action. No word yet on the other move that was made to make space for Humphrey. Check back to Saints Nation for an update once it's confirmed.

Personally, this move scares me. The fullback trade is kind of a "whatever" move since David Thomas is the de-facto fullback these days, but the tight end addition scares me. It tells me Jeremy Shockey's injury is serious enough that they're probably going to hold him out for the final two games of the season. Turf toe can be a problematic injury. The Saints have lots of banged up players that may not be ready until the first playoff game. My fear is they'll be rusty and not adjusted to game speed, but at the end of the day it's best to hold them out to make sure they'll be close to 100% when it matters most.

Monday, December 21, 2009

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

Below are the grades for the defensive and special teams players. The letter grade represents the player's performance in the game, and the GPA is the player's cumulative performance of the season.

Will Smith: A- (2.81) Smith put constant pressure on Romo and continuously beat Flozell Adams, especially on passing downs. Unfortunately, he often let Tony Romo out of his grasp because of the Dallas QB's escapability. He ended the game with 4 tackles, 2 sacks, another tackle for a loss and he must have put Romo on the ground at least 4 times. He drew a 15 yard facemask penalty at one point as Adams did everything he could to stop him. I saw Smith victimized by holds that went unflagged several times. The effort and performance was there, the only negative was he over pursued on some plays. 

Charles Grant: B- (2.02) Grant bounced back in this game, and while he wasn't flashy or great, it was a much better performance than what we've seen from him the last few weeks. He did a decent job against the run, and he also put a lot of pressure on Romo. He didn't get the stats to back it up, finishing with just 2 tackles, but he caused disruption consistently and was the main party responsible for one of Smith's sacks. He put great pressure on Romo on that play, not biting on the play action, hit the quarterback to slow him down, and both Ayodele and Smith came up to clean up the play and tackle Romo. That sack was all Grant, but somehow Will Smith got full credit for it. Remi Ayodele should have at the very least inherited half of that sack statistically, but Grant deserves props for making that play happen. I guess the coaches lit a fire under his ass. Let's see if he builds on this or goes back into his shell of gluttony.

Bobby McCray: C+ (2.00) McCray compiled no stats, but did a good job of applying pressure from the edge when he was in. Still, an overwhelmingly disappointing season from the former Florida Gator who was so promising a year ago.

Anthony Hargrove: D (2.21) Hargrove was pushed around like a rag doll up the middle, and contributed nothing against the run. Suprisingly he wasn't much help rushing the passer, either. I think he should be moved back to defensive end. He finished with no tackles.

Remi Ayodele: B+ (2.39) Another impressive performance by Ayodele. Not only did he push the pile back and show good technique, he actually showed an impressive motor and some hustle. I've been on him all season for not finishing plays, so I was literally shocked at one point to see him running down Jason Witten downfield. He deserved at least half a sack on the play I mentioned above. He finished with 4 tackles, and I'm now a believer he's a key component to our success in the playoffs based on the way he's been playing the last few weeks.

Scott Fujita: B+ (2.88) Fujita made some mistakes, mostly in coverage. At one point he over pursued on a blitz allowing the tailback to get out wide for a flare out. Fujita tried to recover on that play and chase Marion Barber down, but he didn't have the speed. That said, Fujita was all over the field making tackles, and he had a nice aggressive mean streak. It was just really encouraging to just see him on the field about a week after surgery. Add to that the fact that he actually played extremely well, and we might be rounding into shape with our linebacking core. He finished with 10 tackles and used solid technique.

Scott Shanle: B- (2.60) Shanle was overshadowed by the play of Fujita and Vilma, who were both excellent, but Shanle was pretty good in his own right. He was pushed around on a few running plays, but he held his ground ok and made not egregious mistakes. He finished with 6 tackles.

Jonathan Vilma: A- (3.03) Vilma was all over the field and showed impressive speed running sideline to sideline. It seemed like Vilma was in on almost every single play making a tackle. I'd give him a higher grade, but he blew a chance to tackle Marion Barber short of the end zone on a touchdown run, and he missed a coverage assignment on Witten. Just being nit-picky, though, because he had 14 tackles, a sack, and was playing at an extremely high level. After those first two drives, the defense as a whole was overall pretty good. It's just too bad they had to get the team in such an early hole/deficit early.

Tracy Porter: B+ (3.13) Gay left the game early with an injury, and Porter was thrown into the fire. He's making his way back from the knee injury, so he was supposed to only see limited reps, but he ended up playing starter minutes. He finished with 6 tackles and 2 pass deflections. He also did a good job of pushing Miles Austin out of the end zone on what would have been a touchdown pass. Porter was the only player in the backfield making plays. It made me realize just how much of a difference it makes in this defense to have good corners. Greer and Porter are just much superior to the guys behind them. It's honestly not even close. I think we already knew that, but seeing him back strongly confirmed it. Despite not being used to game speed and playing on a healing knee, he was much better than anyone else in the back four. He shut down Roy Williams and came up with some big breakups on third down.

Malcolm Jenkins: D+ (2.48) Jenkins was burned badly by Miles Austin on the first touchdown of the game, once again biting on a double move. Granted it was a picture perfect throw by Romo, but Jenkins just doesn't have the catch up speed to hang with speed demons like Austin if he makes a mistake in coverage. He was targeted by Romo often, and more times than not he was beaten. The guy is just not NFL ready, in my opinion, on a consistent basis. When you're 13-1 fighting for homefield advantage and getting ready for the playoffs, my opinion right now is that Jenkins is a liability as a starting corner. I'm not saying he shouldn't play, I'm saying he's not good enough to play the role he's currently playing. We better pray Jabari Greer makes it back healthy by then. I'm not sure the Saints currently have a better option, either. Anyway, Jenkins did at least show some toughness and tackling ability. He had 7 tackles, a lot due to how much he was picked on.

Roman Harper: C (2.81) Like last week, when the Cowboys needed a play on third down, just find who Roman Harper is covering and go there. His coverage this time was mediocre, which is better than what we've been used to recently. He had 6 tackles, but like Jenkins a lot of those came from being targeted. He made a lot of plays around the line of scrimmage against the run, but he also whiffed on a handful of others. On one blitz he completely missed Romo to allow a third down conversion. He was never great, and he was up and down the whole game.

Darren Sharper: C (2.82) Like Harper, Sharper was very active and put some nice hits on players, but ultimately his speed was a real liability out there. Once when the Saints sent a blitz, his attempt at running with Miles Austin resembled me running after a leopard. He had 10 tackles and made some nice plays in the box, but Sharper can be exposed by a good quarterback and a speedy receiver because he just doesn't have the wheels anymore. The instincts are still there, but he's just not making the plays like he was earlier in the year.

DeMario Pressley: C (2.60) He finished with 1 tackle in limited action. He was fine, not much to say.

Mike McKenzie: D+ (2.00) McKenzie played less against the Cowboys than previous weeks, and that was a good thing. Still he managed to allow a pass to Miles Austin to go for a 1st down at the most crucial of times late in the game on a 3rd down play. Come to think of it, why was McKenzie even on Austin? His coverage was awful on that play, and his weak dive tackle attempt was embarrassing. Who was that guy playing against the Patriots anyway? He finished with 2 tackles, and actually did a decent job on a couple of plays in coverage, but never showed up when the Saints needed him most.

Thomas Morstead: B- (3.02) Morstead's depth on kickoffs were shorter than usual, allowing Felix Jones to get some looks that he made the Saints pay for. He also crushed one punt, but outkicked his coverage and allowed a 28 yard punt return to Patrick Crayton. You can't blame that all on Morstead because the coverage units were mostly at fault, but he's good enough that he could have taken both players out of the game and he didn't. He had one punt that also went for a touchback, but again his coverage unit had a shot to pin it inside the 5 and failed. He did have an impressive average on four punts, though, with 50.3 yards per punt, but his net average was only 36.5. It's not all on him, but the bottom line is the Saints did a poor job in the kicking game setting up favorable field position.

Courtney Roby: B (2.92) The Cowboys took him almost completely out of the game by either kicking the ball so deep that Roby had no chance to take it out, or kicking it short to Lynell Hamilton. The one look he did get he took 67 yards to give the Superdome some life. Unfortunately the Saints couldn't do anything with the field position Roby gave them. He also had a tackle as a gunner, but he was also called for an illegal block in the back that negated a decent punt return by Bush.

Garrett Hartley: B+ (3.11) Hartley hit both extra points (thankfully down the middle) and made a 34 yard field goal. Not much duty, but he made the most of his opportunities.

My Defensive Player of the Game: Jonathan Vilma
My Special Teams Player of the Game: Courtney Roby

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Saints Nation: Offensive Player Grades vs. Cowboys

Needless to say, these are a lot more fun to do after a win. If you're still feeling bad, though, consider that you didn't have to sit through re-watching the first three quarters of that game. Quite frankly the Saints deserved to lose that game.

Drew Brees: C- (3.17) It wasn't all on him, but Brees just didn't play that well. Granted, while he fumbled twice he was under constant pressure all day long. If not for his pocket presence and awareness he would have been sacked way more than 4 times. His interception was just a bad read and an even worse throw. He did not do a good job of making throws on third down. A subpar game for the Saints' superstar, and his MVP push may have taken a hit. He made some nice throws late on the rally, but the Saints were in too big of a hole to climb out. He finished 29-45 for 298 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception. He rushed twice for 8 yards, lost two fumbles, and caught a batted pass of his before getting tackled for a 4 yard loss.

Reggie Bush: B- (2.61) Hard to give him a full grade because he left with an injury and didn't return. Too bad, he was playing pretty well before he left. His one run was a beautiful 29 yard sprint down the left sideline. He also caught 2 passes for 17 yards, one of which had significant real estate if he hadn't come up gimpy. Give him credit also for running forward on his lone punt return. Ultimately, he didn't see enough action to make a difference.

Mike Bell: C+ (2.73) Bell never really got a chance to get going. He was stuffed on his first attempt. He had a couple of nice runs early in the 4th quarter, including a touchdown run, but he finished with just 8 yards on 4 carries. Not enough opportunity.

Pierre Thomas: C+ (3.05) Thomas was unusually quiet, other than a screen pass he took for 29 yards late. He never really got going in the running game, and the Saints abandoned it to catch up. He did a decent job as a security valve in the passing game. He had just 20 yards on 6 carries, and 50 yards on 5 receptions.

Marques Colston: B (2.95) Colston, to me, didn't seem to get that open. He has great hands and a nice frame to make some impressive grabs, but I felt like he never got much separation from the Dallas defense. Fortunately, Brees went to him in tight windows and it seemed to work. He finished with a pretty decent game, 5 catches for 86 yards.

Lance Moore: B- (2.54) Again, hard to grade him because Brees never really looked his way and he didn't play all that much. He filled in on punt return duties when Bush left, and got hit hard one where he should have called for a fair catch. Moore did get a touchdown on a screen pass, though, which also included nice blocking by Meachem and Colston. That was his lone catch, but it gave the Superdome new life as it brought the game within striking distance.

Devery Henderson: D+ (2.83) Henderson was covered by Mike Jenkins all night like a blanket. On the interception, Jenkins was step for step with him. There were several other plays where Brees would try to get Henderson involved and he was just not open. On a terribly underthrown ball by Brees in the end zone at one point, Henderson was covered but did a nice job adjusting to the pass. Unfortunately on that play, he dropped an easy touchdown catch. Devery Henderson and "drops" have been becoming all too synonymous lately. He finished with just 2 catches for 22 yards, but did a good job of breaking a tackle and getting out of bounds late to at least give the Saints a chance.

Robert Meachem: B- (3.17) 5 catches for 43 yards in the game. Nothing great, nothing terrible.

David Thomas: A- (2.47) Thomas was by far the most used weapon in the passing game. He stepped in for an injured Shockey and did a great job of showing soft hands and ability after the catch. He finished with an impressive 8 catches for 77 yards. Good thing I picked him up and started him in my fantasy league right as I heard Shockey was out for the game. Thomas also threw two monster lead blocks for Mike Bell on the first touchdown drive, and he also sprung the Reggie Bush run free with a nice seal. Shockey is a big part of what the Saints do, but I can't really say there was any dropoff with Thomas in the game.

Jermon Bushrod: D- (2.54) I long considered giving him my second F of the season. He definitely deserves an F for his play, but I think Bushrod shows effort and he at least threw a beautiful block on Bush's run. In pass protection, he was a disaster. Dallas finished with 4 sacks, all coming from the left side. One of those was on Pierre Thomas, but the fact that Anthony Spencer went twice to hit Brees untouched was inexcusable. Anytime DeMarcus Ware was in the game, he beat Bushrod like a red headed step child. If it wasn't for Brees' pocket awareness, Bushrod would have been responsible for many more atrocious offensive plays. As the NFL Network crew pointed out, his footwork and balance were terrible. Maybe it's time to give Zach Strief another go. Whether it was using speed, power, or anything at all, Ware made Bushrod look like he was out of high school. Embarassing performance by the left tackle.

Carl Nicks: C (3.03) Nicks just didn't get it done. He didn't help Bushrod, he didn't get his usual push in the running game, and his pass protection was nothing special. Granted, he never really got a chance to show what he could do in either situation because the Saints hardly ran the ball and Bushrod was getting beat much faster than anyone else on the line.

Jonathan Goodwin: B (3.17) Goodwin showed nice toughness bouncing back from an injury and he played overall pretty well. He made most of his assignments, create running lanes, and did a good job of letting Brees step up in the pocket with constant outside pressure.

Jahri Evans: C+ (3.24) Evans had a holding penalty and he didn't have his best game in pass protection. At times he manhandled his man, but at others his play was average. Overall the whole line deserves criticism for the poor job running the ball and the horrendous job protecting Brees.

Jon Stinchcomb: C (2.81) Stinchcomb was fortunate to get an illegal contact call on the Cowboys on the same play that he was completely beat and allowed his man to sack Brees within about a second of the ball getting snapped. I'm not sure Stinchcomb even laid a finger on the defender on that play. He was beaten around the edge several times, but he was bailed out often by Brees' feet and/or Bushrod's superior awfulness.

My Offensive Player of the Game: David Thomas

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Saints Nation: Saints Drop First Game of Season, Lose 24-17 to Cowboys

The Saints just couldn't get it done tonight as they were outplayed in all three phases of the game, leading to a 24-17 loss to the Cowboys. Down 24-3 at the start of the 4th quarter, the Saints seemed finished but mounted a furious rally to give themselves a chance to tie the game late, down just 7 points with the football. Unfortunately the Saints' offensive line couldn't hold up, and the team was done in by it's inability to convert on 3rd down throughout the game. You can check out the box score HERE. Check back here at Saints Nation for player grades.

Saints Nation: Gameday vs. Cowboys

As the Saints host the Cowboys in the Superdome tonight at 7:20pm Central (on NFL Network), the big question for tonight will be the status of both Jeremy Shockey and Sedrick Ellis. Shockey has a turf toe, so while we all know he's tough and always plays through injuries, I'm sure we'll see him limping at times. I think he'll play but have limited snaps. Sedrick Ellis has a sore knee, which is the same injury that caused him to miss several games already this year. He's officially listed as questionable but I believe Sedrick Ellis will be held out for this game. No use in aggravating his injury when you don't need the game and he's your premiere run stopper. I also think Scott Fujita will be held out, and I think Lance Moore will finally play after being out injured for a significant part of the season. Garrett Hartley is listed as probable with a hip injury, too, so that makes me wonder if the Saints will go with John Carney. Something to keep an eye on.

For Dallas the two questionable players are Ken Hamlin and DeMarcus Ware. Not sure on Hamlin, but I can't imagine there is any way Ware goes after that neck injury last week.

Enjoy the game and Geaux Saints! We're shooting for 14-0 with The Unknown Who Dat in that number!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Saints Nation: Saints Need to Bring Pressure Against Tony Romo

After two questionable defensive outputs by the Saints, I put together some numbers and came to the conclusion that the Saints need to improve their pass rush - primarily starting with pressure from the front four.

Check out THIS ARTICLE that I wrote for Canal Street Chronicles for details.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Saints Nation: Saints vs. Cowboys in December Bodes Well

It's well documented that the Cowboys' current regime has struggled mightily in December. Oddly enough, it seems the Saints always play the Cowboys in December (at least in recent history), and they've got a nice little streak going against the star emblem. Check out the most recent results:

Dec 10th, 2006: Saints 42 @ Cowboys 17

Dec 12th, 2004: Cowboys 13 @ Saints 27

Dec 28th, 2003: Cowboys 7 @ Saints 13

Dec 24th, 1999: Cowboys 24 @ Saints 31

Dec 6th, 1998: Cowboys 3 @ Saints 22

Dallas' last win over the Saints dates back to 1994 when Troy Aikman and Emmett Smith, among others, were still on the team. It seems odd that the last 5 encounters have been in December, but the Saints have been able to take full advantage. Hopefully the game on Saturday will be no different.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Saints Nation: Pictures from the Locker Room. NFC SOUTH CHAMPS!

Below I've posted pictures from the locker room after the Washington Redskins game that clinched the Saints the NFC South Division Title. Thought you guys might enjoy! Congratulations to our 13-0 New Orleans Saints who are NFC South Champions, and have since also clinched a 1st round playoff bye!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Saints Nation: Defensive and Special Teams Player Grades @ Falcons

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

Saints vs Falcons recap

Saints vs Falcons boxscore

Saints vs Falcons coverage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 14, 2009

Saints Nation: Offensive Player Grades @ Falcons

Below are the grades for the Saints' offensive players for the game at Atlanta. Overall you'll notice very good grades across the board, but I will say the offense's inability to get the ball in the end zone at times kept the game closer than it should have been. The letter grade represents the player's individual performance and the GPA represents the player's cumulative effort over the course of the season. Don't worry if you think I'm being too nice, just wait for the defensive grades. They are horrendous.

Saints vs Falcons coverage

Saints vs Falcons recap

Saints vs Falcons boxscore

Drew Brees: A (3.28) Another fine and masterful performance by Brees. He's gotten his GPA dangerously close to Jahri Evans' with this string flawless games. It should be fun down the stretch to see who wins my team MVP based on highest GPA. He missed a couple of throws under pressure, but how can you complain with the game he had? Once again he wasn't sacked despite dropping back to pass 40 times. He finished 31 of 40 for 296 yards, 3 touchdowns and no turnovers. My only complaint is that he burned two timeouts with poor play clock management, and he could've been more precise in the red zone.

Reggie Bush: A- (2.61) Where did this performance come from? Bush came back in a big way, running the ball well, catching it effectively, and, brace yourselves, he even returned a punt well. The speed he showed on the screen pass was impressive. That touchdown 21 yard reception on a 3rd and 18 play, catching the Falcons in an all out blitz. He finished with 33 yards on 6 carries, 6 catches for 46 yards, 2 touchdowns receiving and a punt return for 23 yards. Give Bush credit for making one hard cut every time he touched the ball and then running with authority ahead. Amazing how much more effective he is when he's not "dancing". You all know what I'm talking about. He also bounced a 3rd and 1 play outside and ripped off a good run for a necessary conversion. Way to go Reggie.

Pierre Thomas: B+ (3.12) Thomas was used fairly often in the passing game, and had mixed results in the running game. As the game progressed he was more effective rushing, but I think the Saints could have used him more. At one point he looked banged up which is why the Saints may have abandoned their usual commitment to the run. He had 6 receptions for 53 yards, and 13 carries for 47 yards. He made no mistakes and showed great effort and toughness finishing off runs.

Lynell Hamilton: B- (2.67) Hamilton had limited reps, but he came in and gave the Saints a spark. I can't imagine there's many 4th string tailbacks in the NFL that are better. He had 13 yards on 4 carries and showed good force and physicality through the hole. He did have a nice run get called back by a holding call. He gets a B- because, let's face it, it's not like he made a huge impact on the game.

Marques Colston: B+ (2.95) Colston finished with 6 catches for 54 yards and a touchdown. It wasn't one of his dominant chain moving performances, but he made plays out there and he was solid. He made a catch on the opening drive showing off his freakish reach and reeling in a pass with his fingertips. He made it look easy, but that was a sick catch.

Devery Henderson: C- (2.95) Devery had some receptions and was dangerous after the catch, finishing with 3 catches for 31 yards. He also had two very bad drops. I worry after seeing him drop a few the past 3 weeks that he's reverting back to his old inconsistent ways. This was a mediocre performance. He got his hands on a ball in the end zone and couldn't secure it as he got hit, which was disappointing, but his second drop was an easy sideline pass that he flat out dropped. Unacceptable there, you've got to catch that one. He also got flagged on a holding call on a wide receiver screen to Meachem.

Robert Meachem: B+ (3.21) Meachem had another very solid performance. He finished with 4 catches for 57 yards, most on short routes. He also caught a 42 yard bomb downfield, and converted a 3rd and short on a 4 yard reverse. Based on the GPAs, Meachem has been the best Saints' receiver this season.

Jeremy Shockey: B (2.87) Shockey is pretty banged up. The Saints don't use him on clear running downs, and they avoid putting him in the game when they feel like they can manage without him. You've got to give the guy props for going out there on a bum ankle and showing some grit. Shockey was pretty effective in the passing game, finishing with 4 catches for 46 yards. Shockey has been clutch all season on 3rd down plays, and you can tell he's most often the primary option when the Saints really need a play. He did get caught for holding once, so that costs him the B+.

David Thomas: B- (2.36) Thomas finished with 2 catches for 9 yards. His role in the passing game has declined as he's been transformed into a fullback. I think it's safe to assume he'll be the lead blocker for the rest of the way, barring injury. It's no surprise the run game has been a little less effective given that Thomas isn't a natural fullback and that he's got major shoes to fill in Heath Evans'. He's done a pretty admirable job overall, though, and he'll get better. He does manage to still make contributions from time to time in the passing game, too.

Jermon Bushrod: B (2.70) Bushrod got pushed around early by John Abraham, and got help later to neutralize the dangerous pass rusher. Thank God this isn't the same Abraham as in his peak years, because I think Bushrod would have been eaten alive. None the less, Brees was never sacked and the running behind Bushrod was at times spectacular, and at other times average. He was pretty good overall. He fought hard.

Zach Strief: C+ (2.30) Strief was caught holding and had some miscues. He did fill in for Stinchcomb briefly at right tackle, though, and did a good job while he was in as a replacement there. The main issues he had were as an extra tight end on short plays, which is odd as it's been his calling card this year. Regardless, it's nice to have in Strief a guy who I feel is marginally inferior to both of our starting tackles. He can come in at any time and fill in and I don't think we miss that much of a beat. He's a nice reserve to have.

Carl Nicks: A- (3.10) Very solid in run and pass blocking. The majority of the runs came to the left side, and Nicks handled his man with ease. That said, why one earth is he primary option on a fake field goal? Why are we even running that play in that situation? Too bad Brunell didn't give him a chance because he was looking for an A+ if he scores a touchdown to put the game away.

Jonathan Goodwin: A- (3.18) Pretty solid game overall by Goodwin. On the Reggie Bush screen pass touchdown play, Colston did a pretty good job of blocking his man, but as Bush neared him around the 5 yard line, the defender was coming free to potentially take a shot at stopping Bush. Goodwin was pulling on the play and he absolutely blew up the defender, giving Bush an easy stroll into the end zone. Goodwin has a nice little nasty streak in him. I wish I was grading Jeff Faine on a per game basis because I'd love to see how his GPA would stack up to Goodwin's. I can't imagine there's any way it would be as good.

Jahri Evans: A- (3.31) Another textbook performances. I just didn't really feel like I could hand out A's despite the terrific pass blocking all day because the Saints finished with 95 yards rushing and a 3.7 average per carry. I did get a chance to watch Evans, mostly on passing plays, stand up his man and completely neutralize him. He would stand straight up and push his man back like he was playing with a 5 year old boy. Evans wasn't as nasty or powerful as Nicks/Goodwin in the running game for this one, but Brees would have had all day if it were one on one blocking drills. Seriously, go back and watch the tape. He completely shut down his man and rendered him useless on passing plays. It was almost like the defensive tackle gave up on rushing Brees and just decided he was going to do his best to limit the rushing plays by holding his ground.

Jon Stinchcomb: B+ (2.87) Stinchcomb banged up his leg (knee maybe?) and like Shockey he got a little band aid put on it, got the trainers to kiss it, and he was back out there. Just kidding, both guys should be applauded for shaking off injuries to go back out there and perform at a high level. I don't think anyone can question the character of Jon Stinchcomb. The guy is a very respected locker room influence and he lays it all on the line for the Saints. His mobility was a little hampered by the injury, but he was helped out by Brees' terrific pocket presence and footwork.

Darnell Dinkins: B (2.06) Going back to that ridiculous decision by Sean Payton to fake a field goal, Dinkins was the intended receiver. Seriously, Coach Sean, what were you thinking (said in Frank Caliendo doing Dr. Phil voice)? Anyway, Brunell bypassed Nicks, his primary target with non existent speed and zero flexibility and athleticism for his secondary target, Dinkins. Dinkins, mind you, is the blocking tight end who has a better chance of catching a ball with his feet. Dinkins not only wasn't able to keep his feet in bounds, he ran his route a good yard or two short of the first down anyway. Even if he comes down with that, it's a beyond stupid play made to look even more stupid by Dinkins' execution of it. Too bad, because I'd give the guy an A- if it wasn't for that. Finally he showed me some of his blocking skills and I can understand why the Saints kept him on the active roster injured early in the season. His blocking was masterful. He sealed the edge when he needed to, and he created huge lanes by using brute force. I have a feeling Mike Bell would have had a good day running behind him.

My Offensive Player of the Game: Drew Brees