Saints vs. Rams: Full Roster Report Card Grades for New Orleans
Let's face it, New Orleans Saints fans, the Saints got a taste of their own medicine. The St. Louis Rams did to them exactly what the Saints did to the Carolina Panthers last week. They dominated in all phases of the game, and took the Panthers' soul early in the contest and never relinquished it.
The results were damning as the Saints played another lackluster road game, getting ran out the gym by a score of 27-16. The Saints were punched in the mouth early and played the rest of the game in zombie mode.
For the Saints to truly have a shot at winning the Lombardi Trophy they must have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Since they missed out on the Super Bowl actually being in New Orleans, last season, the task of procuring the elusive trophy has become that much more difficult.
And this particular loss becomes even more critical when you factor in the Saints must now travel to Carolina with the No. 2 seed in the NFC at stake. Here's hoping the Saints find the previous magic they displayed in the first meeting, rather than the voodoo that was placed on them in St. Louis.
The Saints have a few positives to hang their hats on. Conversely, there are many areas where they should hang their heads.
Let's see what stood out in defeat. Here are the complete roster grades from Week 15.
Note: Players are graded on the standard scale. Higher grades are given for splash plays (TDs, INTs, sacks, etc) and proper technique. Conversely, lower grades are given for turnovers and improper technique.
Drew Brees: D
Watching Brees struggle through his worst game of the season, it dawned on me that the coaching staff could've helped him out with their pay-calling. Actually, that's something this column has examined before.
Forcing Brees to drop back 56 times against the league's most ferocious pass rush (since 2011) just seems wrong. Watching Brees peel himself up off the turf was a bit disheartening at times as well. Where were the delays and draws that we discussed in the game preview? Where was the no-huddle at early in the game?
Brees finished with a cosmetic 393 yards passing, but he threw two interceptions opposed to just one touchdown.
This performance wasn't all on him; he was unable to overcome his coaching.
Pierre Thomas: B-
Pierre Thomas is just so darn underrated. He always seems to fall forward after breaking the initial tackle. He had a tough game on the ground, gaining a putrid 21 yards on eight carries, but pulled his weight in the pass game (seven receptions for 62 yards).
Darren Sproles: C-
Darren Sproles caught eight passes for just 38 yards and also contributed 24 yards on seven carries. Both performances were really nothing to phone home about, but expect Sproles to bounce back against Carolina.
Mark Ingram: C
Mark Ingram took his only carry five yards and looked spectacular in a 23-yard jaunt after catching a screen pass. Sure would've loved to see this beast unleashed...but this is the Saints we're talking about.
Overall Grade: C
Marques Colston: A
Marques Colston followed up his best game of the season with his second best game. His eight-catch, 92-yard performance looked like the old Colston at times, which is better than earlier in the season when he looked like an old Colston.
Kenny Stills: B-
Kenny Stills had four catches for 47 yards (on four targets). He looks good operating in the short game where he could have more of an impact opposed to relying on catching deep passes each game. The kid could be a superstar in the mold of Victor Cruz (New York Giants) in the slot.
Robert Meachem: F
Lance Moore: B+
Lance Moore had some good moments. His six-catch, 78-yard performance was one of his better outings of the season. For the Saints to move the ball they need their prerequisite chain-mover to play like he has virtually throughout his career. This game was a step in the right direction.
Jimmy Graham: D
It's about time to start classifying the great Jimmy Graham as what he truly is. Although he's classified as a tight end, it's merely for novices to have a picture of one in a Saints uniform. Graham is one of the best receivers in the NFL, but in this game he was an afterthought.
And we all know if he's ineffective (two catches for 25 yards), the Saints aren't winning.
Overall Grade: C+
Pass Protection: F-
Brees looked like one of the women on The Bachelorette being fought over by 25 men. He was constantly running for his life being forced off his spot—which made him quite erratic. Left tackle Charles Brown was treated like a rental car, and we all know how tough we can be on those!
This is the type of performance that we all have had nightmares about. Only those were set in the playoffs. Here's hoping Brown is moved out of the left tackle spot permanently.
On another note, whatever happened to third-round pick Terron Armstead? It may be time to give him a try...
Run Blocking: D-
The line performed poorly, but when you are charged with blocking for 18 sporadic runs, who are we to judge? The unit will never be allowed to get into a rhythm in the run game, which in turn doesn't allow it to keep the defense off balance in pass protection. It's a tough job for this unit.
Overall Grade: D-
Cameron Jordan: D
"Killer" Cam Jordan was more like "Getting Killed" Cam Jordan. Jordan is the best player on the Saints defense, so it's up to him to show up each and every game—in some shape, form or fashion. His three-tackle performance was a far departure from his breakout performance on Sunday Night Football against Carolina.
Akiem Hicks: D
Akiem Hicks had a brilliant tackle in the backfield, but he followed that up with, well, nothing. Hicks is one of the most disruptive forces in the interior of a defense in the NFL—every other game. He needs to develop consistency before he can take the next step into being deemed a Pro Bowl player.
Junior Galette: F
He played? Junior Galette is becoming one of my favorite players in the NFL. His vast array of rush moves are uncanny, and he's showing himself to be a viable option against the run as well. But he was blanked in this game, coming up with only one pass deflection for his efforts.
Galette will bounce back.
Overall Grade: D-
Curtis Lofton: C
Although Curtis Lofton had seven tackles, many were of the downfield variety. The Saints are giving up 4.7 yards per rush, and it's time for the great Lofton to be held accountable.
David Hawthorne: B
David Hawthorne is an excellent wingman to Lofton—in a football sense. So both need to shoulder the blame for the woes in the rush defense. Hawthorne led the team with 10 tackles, but can you really name an impactful stop? Well, he did have a tackle for loss, but even that gets lost in translation.
This was a poor performance all around from the defense, but the front seven usually sets the tone. But in this particular game they were tone deaf.
Parys Haralson: D
Parys Haralson got a chance to play a little more than usual as the Saints went to an odd-front alignment out of desperation. Haralson didn't make much of an impact, contributing two tackles. This unit will have its hands full with the Panthers looking for revenge next Sunday.
Overall Grade: C+
Keenan Lewis: B
Keenan Lewis had a pretty good game as he deflected two passes in coverage. He had an excellent play covering a 9-route against Rams receiver Brian Quick. He stayed in Quick's hip pocket and even turned to locate the ball in the air. Up next for Lewis should be the shadowing of Carolina receiver Steve Smith.
Corey White: D-
Corey White was back to being the shaky White. This is to be expected from a guy in his first few games starting. White got his ankles broke on an early slant route and never seemed to recover. He usually gets his hands on at least one pass per outing, but he only managed to come up with one tackle total in this one.
It was just one of those days.
Kenny Vaccaro: C
Kenny Vaccaro played a little more safety in this outing but still spent some time in the slot when the Rams went to a three-wide set. Vaccaro was quiet for much of the night, but he had a nice tackle in the backfield to help force a field goal late in the game.
Hell hath no fury like Vaccaro scorned. Look for him to take out his frustration on the Panthers receivers again. He will be dishing out punishment at the line of scrimmage when necessary.
Overall Grade: C
Malcolm Jenkins: F-
This column is one of the staunchest supporters of the resurgent Malcolm Jenkins. But even I wished he were cut at halftime after accumulating silly personal foul penalties and putting his team behind the proverbial eight ball. It's hard enough to win in the NFL, so beating yourself becomes even sillier when you think about it.
Jenkins had four meaningless tackles as he turned in a performance reminiscent of his past when he was deemed a first-round bust.
Roman Harper: D
He played? I saw him at inside linebacker when the Saints went to the 3-4 alignment. But he ended up with one innocuous tackle, furthering the notion that he should be collecting splinters in his butt.
Garrett Hartley: D+
It's time for us to start labeling kicker Garrett Hartley as a safety, because he's the last line of defense for the opposition. Zing! I'll be here all night, people. But seriously, we've wondered aloud why Hartley is still allowed to kick for the Saints; this game (among others) does little to dispel that notion.
Bad things happen when Hartley is up to bat, though his two missed kicks weren't totally his fault. The Saints should've parted ways with Hartley earlier this season. It may take a loss in the playoffs for them to make that tough call.
Overall Grade: D-
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