In anticipation of its August 10 release, the Madden 11 team and player ratings have been released.
The Saints' overall rating of 92 is by far the highest rating in the the NFC South (Atlanta 83, Carolina 75, and Tampa Bay 69) and edges out the Indianapolis Colts by a point for the overall lead.
We've long known that Super Bowl XLIV MVP Drew Brees is the cover boy. Now, let's see how highly thought of his teammates are.
Drew Brees scored high marks and deservedly so. He received a 99 overall, and did especially well in the accuracy categories.
Accuracy on short throws: 99
Accuracy on medium throws: 98
Accuracy on long throws: 92
One category that I have to question is toughness. Brees received an 85, which isn't bad for a quarterback, but third stringer Chase Daniel got a 98.
I guess returning to the field after suffering a 360-degree tear of the labrum doesn't show enough toughness.
The first thing that jumped out at me was this:
Jon Stinchcomb got an overall score of 90.
I guess a Super Bowl run can really inflate an outsider's perception of your abilities.
Stinchcomb is a solid pro who is good as a run blocker and is above average in the screen game, but leaves a lot to be desired as a one-on-one pass protector.
The teacher in me says that he earned an A in the area of pass blocking with a score of 93. Those who watch the Saints on a regular basis know that it is Brees' quick release that masks the right tackle's deficiencies.
Left tackle Jermon Bushrod got a well-deserved overall score of 75, though I don't know how they came up that score when they gave him an 80 in run blocking and an 87 in pass blocking.
Bushrod's pass-blocking score seems a little high for someone who was a liability against an elite pass-rushing team and often required the help of a tight end or running back.
We move from the weakness of the Saints' offensive line to its unquestioned strength.
There's not much to squabble with here, as All-Pro guard Jahri Evans received a 98 overall. Carl Nicks, the sometimes overlooked left guard, received a 90 overall.
The only minor point of contention I have is with Nicks' run blocking score of 88. At 343 pounds, he is a monster who can push around most defensive tackles but also possesses enough quickness in the zone-blocking scheme to get to the linebackers.
I would have given Nicks a 92 or 93 as a run blocker.
Jonathan Goodwin's overall score of 81 reflects that he is a middle-of-the-pack center, and that's exactly what he is.
Goodwin doesn't make any glaring mistakes or possess any outstanding strengths. He is a solid veteran who benefits greatly from playing in between two outstanding guards.
He and Brees did have a fumbled fourth quarter snap deep in Saints territory against the Minnesota Vikings, but that seemed to be more Brees' fault than Goodwin's.
The Saints' group of receivers can be a tough one to grade because Brees does such a job sharing the ball, but I think the guys over at Madden got this right.
I think some Saints fans may fuss that Marques Colston's overall rating of 89 is a little low. He is certainly an above-average receiver, but he doesn't possess the speed of other number one receivers like Larry Fitzgerald or Andre Johnson.
With a catching rating of 94, Colston has the best hands on the team.
Other noteworthy numbers are Devery Henderson's speed (98) is the best on the team, and Robert Meachem's overall rating of 82 tells me that Madden isn't sure what to make of the receiver whose first two seasons were bust but who had breakout third year.
As expected, Reggie Bush scored high in agility (99), acceleration (98), and speed (97). I was a little surprised that he led the team in swagger (96) over guys like Brees and Jeremy Shockey.
Pierre Thomas continues to be underrated and overlooked.
I argue that he is the most valuable weapon at Drew Brees' disposal. He is an incredibly smart player and possesses tremendous vision as a runner and as a receiver.
Madden gives him an 86 when scoring his ball-carrying vision. While that number is not bad, it should be much higher. He has a career average of over five yards per carry yet doesn't have elite speed or power.
He is a clutch performer who has a nose for the end zone. He has scored 20 touchdowns in his last 28 regular season games. He scored two touchdowns in the NFC Championship game and one in the Super Bowl.
All three postseason touchdowns either tied the score or gave the Saints the lead.
Jeremy Shockey (86) and David Thomas (78) both received fitting overall scores.
Shockey is no longer an elite tight end but is still a trusted third down and red zone target. He also wins the team's virtual tough guy award but shares it with quarterback Chase Daniel (still scratching my head over that one).
Thomas, who came over in a trade with New England, set career highs in receptions and yardage in his first year with the Saints.
As a group, the Saints defensive ends are average and the ratings reflect that. Will Smith (90) and Alex Brown (80) scored the highest.
Smith got a well-deserved 92 for toughness after playing much of the 2008 season with a sports hernia. He has not missed a game since 2006. He used his power moves (90) to record a career high 13 sacks in 2009.
Backups Jimmy Wilkerson and Bobby McCray both scored a 76 overall.
Sedrick Ellis is the Saints' most complete defensive tackle and received an 88 overall. Madden gives him well-deserved high marks in strength (94) and power moves (90). I am a little surprised on how well he scored in the injury category (89) because he has missed nine games in his first two years, but maybe that rating is an indication of things to come.
The other notable tackles leave something to be desired.
Remi Ayodele (76 overall) disappoints in toughness (70), finesse moves (60), and hitting power (58).
Anthony Hargrove leads the line in swagger (86) but falls short in tackling (69) and hitting power (48).
Jonathan Vilma is clearly the leader of this group. His overall rating of 90 is 13 points higher Scott Shanle's, who ranks second among linebackers.
Vilma scores exceptionally high as a tackler (93), in pursuit (97), and with play recognition (96).
Other than Shanle, only Clint Ingram scored a rating in the 70s. I'm not sure why, but Shanle's toughness was rated as just a 70. He's only missed three games in four years in New Orleans.
One notable omission is Jonathan Casillas. Casillas played in 11 games and started two last year.
I have some small problems with the overall scores of the Saints' main corners: Jabari Greer (87), Tracy Porter (85), Randall Gay (82).
I would raise Greer's score a few points and drop Gay's score a few.
Greer was fourth in the league in completion percentage allowed and sixth in quarterback rating allowed.
Gay ranked near the bottom in both categories.
My issues come with some of the more specific categories.
For instance, Greer should have gotten higher than an 88 for speed. He was a track star at the University of Tennessee and was the 60 meter hurdle indoor champion.
Porter received just an 82 in play recognition. He's only made two of the biggest interceptions in team history.
The Saints' three top-rated safeties are Darren Sharper (94), Roman Harper (82), and Malcolm Jenkins (76). While Madden lists Jenkins as a corner, he is now a safety for the Saints.
Sharper scored high marks in awareness (98) and play recognition (99) (what's the difference between the two?) and also toughness (92) and stamina (96).
Harper led all defensive backs in hitting power (86) and tackling (84).
Jenkins led the safeties in acceleration (93). I believe he'll prove that his real self has more hitting power than his virtual self (70).
Physically, the only thing that matters for the placekicker and punter is their kicking power and accuracy.
Placekicker Garrett Hartley scored a 93 in power and an 88 in accuracy.
Punter and kickoff specialist Thomas Morstead scored a 95 in power and an 84 in accuracy.
If there was a category for focus and clutch, both players would have scored a 99.
Garrett Hartley kicked the biggest field goal in the history of the team (no exaggeration) to send the Saints to the Super Bowl, and kicked a record-tying three field goals in the Super Bowl.
Morstead executed the biggest onside kick in the history of the game (again, no exaggeration) to start the second half of Super Bowl XLIV.