Redskins vs. Saints: Final Report Cards, Player Grades for New Orleans

Will Osgood@@BRwillosgoodAnalyst ISeptember 9, 2012

Redskins vs. Saints: Final Report Cards, Player Grades for New Orleans

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    Sunday afternoon was a surprisingly awful day in New Orleans, at least for the Saints and their fans. 

    The team didn't only lose, they looked lethargic for the majority of their opening game, which seems like the biggest oxymoron known to man. 

    The opening season loss came at the hands of Robert Griffin III, a rookie making his first NFL start. His team put up 40 points against what was supposed to be an improved Saints defense. 

    The Saints nearly came back to match that total, scoring 33 themselves. But it was too little too late for New Orleans. The loss, of course, makes the team 0-1 and makes for a strong 1-0 start for the Redskins

    Let's take a more in-depth look at what went right, and in some strange cases, right for New Orleans on Sunday. 

QB Drew Brees

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    Overall Game Grade--B

    Sunday afternoon Drew Brees was not quite his normal self. But he was probably the best player on the field for the Saints (at least on offense or defense). His ability to keep plays alive with his feet throughout the game made life difficult for the Redskins' secondary.

    As the game went on his accuracy and decision-making improved (for the most part). That caused him to be more successful. Unfortunately, it took too long for both he and the rest of the team to get going. As a result he had to begin forcing passes late in the game. His two interceptions were forced, though the pick off on the hail mary could be described as simply a prayer and not so much a forced pass.

Running Backs

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    Key Players

    Pierre Thomas--B+

    Though Thomas' numbers weren't exactly Pro Bowl-worthy (four carries, 17 yards), his running style was to be admired Sunday. Thomas regularly bounced off tackles and kept the Saints "on schedule". The one screen he ran, he also managed 12 yards. 

    In a more balanced offensive game, Thomas likely would have put up much better numbers. His play, though, should not be judged by the numbers. He was really good Sunday.

    Mark Ingram--C

    Ingram really had just one nice run. Aside from that, his play Sunday left much to be desired. He was never able to break a big run, and his lone nice run was just six yards. 

    Plus the second-year back contributed squat in the passing game. At least it's only one game. 

    Darren Sproles--B+

    Sproles literally did not run the football Sunday. Actually he did run in a two-point conversion, which will not show up in the final box score. That run was a great read on a shotgun inside zone play. 

    Sproles did add value as a receiver out of the backfield. He managed five catches for 35 yards and a late touchdown. Much like Thomas, Sproles' performance cannot be fairly judged by numbers. His value in the return game must also be factored into the final grade. 

    For that reason, Sproles must be given a high grade. A "B+" seems fair. 

Wide Receivers

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    Key Players

    Marques Colston--C+

    Colston's day pretty much epitomized the struggles of the Saints' offense Sunday. Colston not only dropped a couple of passes he normally would catch, he also fumbled away a sure Saints' touchdown before halftime that ended up in a Redskins' touchback. 

    Devery Henderson--B

    His 'B' grade is just as much out of respect for Henderson's injury Sunday as it is his play. When he was in the game and healthy, Henderson was consistent, though he only caught one pass. He really didn't provide the team the deep threat it was looking for, but not every game is going to feature successful deep passes. 

    Lance Moore--B+

    Lance Moore had the most impressive day of the Saints' wide receivers, numerically and otherwise. His six catches for 120 yards and a touchdown look very pretty for fantasy owners. More important his hands were on display many times over Sunday. 

    That said, he did drop at least one pass Sunday that he often brings in. Nonetheless, Moore's effort Sunday was an impressive one.

    WR Joe Morgan--C-

    Morgan didn't see the field much as the Saints' fourth receiver. And when he did, his hands disagreed with him. He did not record a catch, and truthfully did nothing to add any value to the team.

Tight Ends

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    Key Players

    Jimmy Graham--A

    It may seem odd to mention with a tight end, "he held strong as a blocker". But that was a note I made watching Graham Sunday afternoon. He held a block in pass protection which allowed Drew Brees to find an open man. 

    Besides that he did nothing. Psyche! Jimmy Graham showed a toughness and ferocity he never showed last year in his breakout season. The complaint with Graham a season ago was that he too easily went down upon contact. 

    Sunday, he stiff-armed and generally tore apart defenders at every opportunity. If it were possible at this point for Graham to have a true breakout game, Sunday was it. He no longer looked like a big bodied receiver, he looked like a tight end. 

    Dave Thomas--C

    Thomas' role on offense did not seem to match that of previous seasons when he was healthy. Granted he was given multiple opportunities to play on passing downs and even had a pass thrown his way near the goalline. But his effectiveness as a receiver was null and void. 

    His blocking was adequate but did not make him a standout player as he has been in that area previously. 

Offensive Line

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    Overall Game Grade--B-

    It's hard to think an offense that scores 33 points in one game could deserve a B- grade for their performance. But when those 33 points come despite two turnovers and a multitude of dropped passes, penalties and pressure it makes much more sense. 

    The team was never able to establish a running game, partially due to the fact the team was playing from behind at the onset. Nonetheless, the unit, even when it tried to stick to its game plan could not do anything right. 

    The passing game was obviously better, but multiple dropped passes only hurts the team's grade in that area. It may have been a 33-point effort, but it wasn't the finest showing from the Saints' offense Sunday.

    The key issue was that the line had trouble blocking Washington's plethora of talented pass rushers. Drew Brees nearly paid for that difficulty many times. Only his amazing ability to escape trouble kept the sack numbers to a minimum. 

    Key Players

    Jermon Bushrod--C-

    The bulk of Washington's pressure in this game came from the outside. Without actually watching the film, it seem reasonable to conclude the issue was with the tackles. In this case, that puts Bushrod in harm's way of my wrath. 

    I will give him a break on the Deangelo Hall that Saints fans seemingly wanted to blame on Bushrod. That was a play Washington simply brought more than the Saints could block. Bushrod blocked the furthest guy inside, as he was supposed to do. 

    Ben Grubbs--B-

    Ben Grubbs was brought into New Orleans with the expectation his presence would improve the Saints' running game. After one game, the jury is still out on that front. 

    In pass protection, Grubbs was supposed to be nearly equal to Carl Nicks. Sunday, Drew Brees was facing pressure mostly from the left side. In other words, the communication and execution that is supposed to be exhibited between Grubb and Jermon Bushrod did not take place. 

    Brian de la Puente--B

    With the exception of the Deangelo Hall sack, where de la Puente may have been able to check the line into a better protection, he seemed to be handling his assignment as QB of the line quite nicely. 

    As a blocker, there were no noticeable mistakes he made. And when watching a television copy of a football game that is a good thing. No mentions for an offensive lineman is not a bad thing. 

    Jahri Evans--B

    Evans' play was neither awful or spectacular. He appeared to be handling the interior of the Redskins' defense in pass protection. And the bulk of the Saints' successful runs (of which there may have been five) came to the right side. 

    Zach Strief--C+

    Though much of the Redskins' pressure Sunday came off the left side of the line, Zach Strief did allow a few rushers to come off the right side in Brees' direction. 

    He earns a 'C+', though, because he was partially responsible for opening up holes on the right side in the running game. 

Defensive Line

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    Though the Saints were generally ineffective creating pressure, the front four forced Robert Griffin III to scramble in order to make plays. And in the run game they did a good job of eliminating holes inside. The Redskins only had success running the ball outside.

    Key Players

    DE Will Smith--B-

    Smith's effort was actually quite impressive given that he did not know he was playing in this game until Friday. He did an excellent job of holding the point of attack in the run game. 

    And though, pressure was had few and far between, it would be difficult to say that was true in terms of getting near Robert Griffin. Smith was one of the players who was most regularly in Griffin's face.

    DE Cameron Jordan--B

    Cameron Jordan was regularly in the face of RG3 Sunday. Smith and Jordan actually were in the Redskins' backfield on most pass plays. Both just had trouble getting the scrambler extraordinaire to the ground. 

    Like Smith, Jordan was outstanding playing the run. His big body and ability to shift laterally while keeping his balance, made life tough for Redskins runners. 

    DT Sedrick Ellis--B-

    It's not that Ellis had a poor game. Much like an offensive lineman, it's hard to accurately job a defensive tackle during the game without watching the film. Sometimes not naming is a good thing. We know Ellis never got RG3 to the ground, so it would be difficult to give him any better than a 'B-'. 

    DT Brodrick Bunkley--B

    Bunkley was a little more noticeable throughout Sunday's game. Bunkley was regularly in the Redskins' backfield, both against the pass and the run. 

    The Bunkley addition is looking better all the time. 


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    Key Players

    Curtis Lofton--B

    It would be easy to blame Lofton for the Saints' horrendous defensive effort since he is the quarterback of the defense. That would be a poor choice to make though. 

    Lofton made astute calls throughout the game, kept his defense properly aligned and was the third leading tackler in the game. He didn't make any game-changing plays but middle linebackers don't make game changing plays all the time anyway.

    David Hawthorne--C

    As with previous grades, it's easy to get too down on Hawthorne simply because he was run over like a truck on the goalline by Redskins rookie running back Alfred Morris. 

    Unfortunately that is likely the play that will stick in fans' minds from this game when thinking of Hawthorne. Otherwise Hawthorne was solid. He kept the ball in front of him and fed ball-carriers back inside. 

    Will Herring/Scott Shanle--C

    If someone's going to take the blame for the linebackers' average play, it might as well be the Herring/Shanle combo. It really isn't that either played poorly. The 'C' grade is more an indication that neither stood out or did anything special. To say either played badly would be unfair. 

Defensive Backs

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    Key Players

    CB Corey White--D-

    The rookie fifth round pick regularly looked lost and was beat by Redskins receivers. His performance Sunday makes Saints fans yearn for Jabari Greer, who missed the game due to injury. 

    He was solid on an opening screen, coming up to make a tackle for loss. Sadly he also gave up a touchdown in the second quarter where he was beat badly.

    CB Patrick Robinson--B-

    The days of Robinson being the corner opponents pick on seem over. Sunday his only real blunder came on a pass he tried to jump for an interception. He was burnt only because he missed and the play ended up going for a 29-yard pass play. He was in perfect position on the coverage. 

    Johnny Patrick--B

    I cannot remember a play where Patrick was burnt. There may have been, but just like with the O-Line, if you're not mentioning a corner's name that is a good thing. 

    S Roman Harper--B-

    Most fans are going to point to the pass interference call in the end zone in the third quarter and make their determination of Harper's play based on that one play. Don't allow that to be you. 

    On the day Harper was a bit up and down. He was the team's leading tackler which is par for the course in New Orleans. His coverage was better than expected. 

    The pass interference call wasn't his only blunder though. Hence, the 'B-' grade.

    S Malcolm Jenkins--B

    No play from the entire game stands out more in my mind than a play where Jenkins correctly read the pass in front of him yet instead of going for the ball, went for the man and missed a grand interception opportunity. 

    Aside from that play, Jenkins was regularly good in coverage and did a nice job coming up to make plays in the run game. It wasn't a perfect effort, but I'd reason Jenkins was the Saints' best defensive player Sunday.

Special Teams

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    Overall Game Grade--B

    The special teams made what was probably the Saints' play of the game. Unfortunately it also made one of the worst plays of the game as well when it got caught with 12 men on the field before a punt, which allowed the Redskins' offense to stay on the field and eventually led to a Washington score. 

    But the two primary areas of concern--kick return game and kick coverage--both exceeded expectations on Sunday afternoon. 

    Key Players

    P Thomas Morstead--A

    Morstead's hang time both on punts and kicks took away any opportunity for good returns that Washington may have had. Of course that's when he wasn't kicking the ball through the end zone for touchbacks. 

    Sunday Morstead showed why he is the best punter in the NFC.

    K Garrett Hartley--A

    Hartley made every kick he attempted with ease. He never took a kick longer than 21 yards, so this grade is a bit incomplete. Nonetheless, Garrett Hartley did his job!

    ST Courtney Roby--A

    Giving Roby an "A" grade is almost too easy, if only his punt block touchdown were weighed. Given that he also was the player who drew a holding penalty on Washington's only significant return of the afternoon just adds to his effectiveness. 

    In all, Roby proved he isn't the Saints' special teams captain for nothing. He earned that title because he's a standout in that phase of the game. 


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    Overall Game Grade--B

    From a game management perspective, I personally agreed with every decision Aaron Kromer made. He played it somewhat conservatively, but those decisions ultimately were what led to the Saints even getting the ball with one last chance at the end of the football game. 

    Offensively the team lacked discipline and did not execute the way Saints fans have come to expect. And the defense seemed like it never fully understood what was going on with the Redskins' offense or their own defense.