The season is at the midpoint, and it is time for midterm grades for the New Orleans Saints.
Offensive overall grade: B/B+
Passing game: A+; Drew Brees currently leads the NFL in passing yards, which has made the Saints the first-ranked total offense in the league. Brees is currently on pace to have over 5,000 passing yards. The passing offense is ranked first in yards per game and total yards, second in attempts, attempts per game average, completions, and completion percentage. It is clear Sean Payton utilizes a pass-first offense.
Running game: C-; Payton seems to have a short patience with this portion of his offensive playbook. The Saints currently rank 21st in the league in rush attempts, 30th in total rushing yards, and 29th in average yards per game. This squad is also second in the league in fumbles. The grade would be lower if Payton tried, at all, to establish a run. The running game has worked in early parts of the game, but the team is too reluctant to pass no matter what the situation may be.
Defensive overall grade: C
Passing game: D+; The Saints have given up the eighth most yards in the NFL, 12th most points via the pass, and currently rank 25th against the pass. The team continues to struggle after the loss of rookie Tracey Porter, the lack of stability at both safety positions, and continue to struggle with zone coverage. The major problem lies with the absolute lack of pressure on the opposing quarterback. The Saints have the ninth fewest sacks in the league and have yielded the 14th most completions in the NFL. One reason for the problem is defensive coordinator Gary Gibbs’ reluctance to establish, use, or even try to blitz.
Running game: C/C+; This squad is improving since Sedrick Ellis has returned and Jonathon Vilma has become more involved and accustomed to the scheme. Vilma currently leads the NFC in tackles and is third overall in the NFL. The team has yielded the 17th most yards this season and ranks 18th against the run. The big question is that if this squad is ranked higher because of the team’s lack of pass defense. Teams have the 10th fewest rushes against the Saints this season and ninth in average attempts a game. The run defense is improving and must continue to do so as the pass defense still tries to find its way.
Special teams grade: F
The main reason for the failing grade is obvious; if Martin Gramatica makes his kicks, the Saints would and should be 6-2 instead of 4-4. The team is now on its third kicker, rookie Garret Hartley, and third punter, second-year player Glenn Pakulak. Kickoff coverage has not been terrific. Reggie Bush has returned three punts for touchdowns, but 21 points definitely does not outweigh the two missed wins that would have the team in a first place tie instead of last place.
Coaching grade: C-
Let’s face it; beyond the arm of Brees, the Saints are a lackluster team. Payton cannot comprehend the idea of a running game, unless it involves gadget plays to Bush. What happened to powering between the tackles to tire out a defense? Using the run to open up the pass? What about controlling the game clock? The team should bring in a running specialist to help fix the run game because neither Payton nor offensive coordinator Doug Marrone seem to care.
As for the defense, Gibbs calls bad plays. He has not established any sort of a pass rush this season. His little-used blitz schemes are a joke. It is time for a change from the same bland playcalling and try something new and innovative. Use the players’ strengths and abilities to create plays and work on areas of weakness...that is what all the other defensive coordinators are doing. Safeties Josh Bullocks and Roman Harper were once rising young stars that have turned into unreliable players. But that cannot be all Gibbs’ fault, why hasn’t secondary coach Dennis Allen stepped up and made some changes?
Overall team grade: B-/C+
Something must be done over the bye week and for the upcoming game at the Atlanta Falcons. Otherwise, the Saints maybe looking at yet another eight games that will be filled with "should've" and "would've" and end with the team missing the playoffs for a second consecutive promising season.