New Orleans Saints Report Card: Does 4-0 Record Equal 4.0 GPA?

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New Orleans Saints Report Card: Does 4-0 Record Equal 4.0 GPA?

As the New Orleans Saints make the quarter turn and head into the bye week, there are a lot of positives.

No time to rest on the laurels, though. No one makes the playoffs for winning four games.

I guess it's the teacher/coach in me that says to want to always get better no matter how well things are going.

 

Coaching

Comments: The buzz word surrounding Sean Payton and his offense throughout the offseason was balance. I said I'd believe it when I see it.

How's this, doubting Thomas: 134 runs, 133 passes.

Last year the Saints had a run-pass ratio of 63:37.

Payton is committed to the running game and is using it to shorten the game after the Saints have a big lead.

And who's going to deny the Gregg Williams effect?

Don't look now but the Saints are a top ten defense that leads the league with 13 takeaways and 10 interceptions.

The opening game woes on the coverage units seem to have been fixed even though Malcolm Jenkins was inactive against the Jets.

Grade: A

 

Passing Offense

Comments: Drew Brees started off on fire and has since cooled down. He still has nine touchdowns and just two interceptions.

Brees has hit on 67 percent of his passes for over 1,000 yards.

Eight players have at least one catch per game and five of those players have caught at least one touchdown pass.

The passing game will get better as the health of Lance Moore improves. Moore has been battling shoulder and hamstring injuries.

Moore is the best Saints receiver at getting open in the short and intermediate routes that Brees thrives on.

The Saints offensive line has allowed just four sacks so far and none came against the Jets.

Keep this in mind if you are worrying about Brees' dip in production:

Never has the season's passing yardage leader won the Super Bowl.

Grade: A-

 

Rushing Offense

Comments: The Saints are out-rushing their opponents 2:1.

After recovering from a knee injury and missing the first two games (okay, so he played one snap against the Eagles), Pierre Thomas is taking over from where he left off in 2008.

He has scored three touchdowns and is averaging a whopping 6.4 yards per carry.

When the Jets closed to 17-10, the Saints turned to Thomas on three straight plays and he responded with 43 yards.

Mike Bell is still the team's leading rusher, but that won't last beyond another week with Thomas in the fold.

Even Reggie Bush is averaging 4.1 yards per carry!

The offensive line has taken over the game at times, particularly against the Bills and Jets.

The short yardage game could still use some improvement.

Anyone still want Edgerrin James?

Grade: A

 

Passing Defense

Comments: The Saints rank 14th in the league in passing yardage allowed.

Even while factoring in Kevin Kolb's 391 yards, the defense is still only allowing 248 yards per game through the air.

Opposing quarterbacks are completing just 54 percent of their passes while throwing 10 picks and getting sacked 10 times.

Teams have thrown an average of 38 times per game against the Saints because they are constantly trying to reduce huge deficits.

The Saints have not trailed for any of the 240 minutes this season and have won each game by at least two scores.

Don't get too caught up in the hype just yet, though.

The most experienced quarterback they have faced was Trent Edwards. They have gone against two rookies (Matthew Stafford and Mark Sanchez) and two quarterbacks making their first NFL start (Stafford and Kolb).

Three of the four quarterbacks the Saints will face in the second quarter, Eli Manning, Matt Ryan, and Jake Delhomme, have far more experience.

If the Saints can harass the next four quarterbacks the way they did the first four, I will grade them higher.

Grade: B

 

Rushing Defense

Comments: Kevin Smith, Brian Westbrook, Fred Jackson, and Thomas Jones are all good NFL running backs and none have really done a whole lot against the Saints rush D.

Now no one is going to confuse them with Adrian Peterson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Chris Johnson, and Steven Jackson but allowing just 83 yards per game is nothing to sneeze at.

Roman Harper has been closer to the line of scrimmage and leads the team with 29 tackles.

It only gets tougher as the Saints will face Brandon Jacobs, Ahmad Bradshaw, Ronnie Brown, Ricky Williams, Michael Turner, DeAngelo Williams, and Jonathan Stewart over the next four games.

Grade: B+

 

Special Teams

I haven't heard anyone complain about trading draft picks for Thomas Morstead since the season started, have you?

Morstead has been the Saints' best special teams player.

He kicked off consistently into the end zone as Garrett Hartley served his four-game suspension.

He is averaging 43.7 yards per punt. None of his 15 punts have gone in the end zone, four have been pinned inside the 20, and only seven have been returned.

The coverage units have improved each week after allowing a 43-yard punt return and an 87-yard kick off return.

Dangerous return men DeSean Jackson, Roscoe Parrish, and Leon Washington were all held in check.

John Carney has been solid as a place kicker. He is six for seven and has made all of his extra points.

However, it is apparent the coaching staff doesn't trust his leg strength with their risky play-calling when drives stall on the outer edges of field goal range.

The return game has been a little bit disappointing. Bush has two muffed punts and lost one.

Grade: B-

 

Overall

There's not much to complain about after starting 4-0. Only four other teams (if Minnesota defeats Green Bay), haven't experienced a loss this season.

The defense and running game are vastly improved and have carried the Saints over the past two games.

New Orleans has a plus-seven turnover ratio and is holding the ball six and a half minutes per game longer than their opponents.

The road gets tougher in week six with a home date against the New York Giants, one of the four other undefeated teams.

Fortunately, three of the next four games are at home, including division games against Atlanta and Carolina.

The one road game is a very winnable game against Miami in week seven.

Grade: A-

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