Going against the NFC North in the first two weeks of the season, the New Orleans Saints have been inconsistent. Against Green Bay, most of the players had off games. Against Chicago, almost every player had a remarkably wonderful performance.
So it's hard to say that any one player is bringing the team down, or holding them back. The point is more to say that there are certain players who still must step up, or the team risks not reaching its full potential.
Of course, the addition of defensive end Will Smith in Week 3 should only make the defense stronger than it was in Week 2. And that in itself could aide many of the players on this list.
Robinson's inclusion on this list ultimately has more to do with his Week 1 performance, and the characteristics he has shown thus far in his career. He struggles in man-to-man coverage, and his ball skills leave something to be desired.
Frankly, Robinson is not quick enough to play the nickel position, so when Tracy Porter is healthy Robinson may remain in the starting lineup (at least as the outside corner). Robinson needs to improve his tackling and ball skills or the Saints defense isn't going to be as good as it's capable of being.
With the insertion of Robinson in this list I have to also include Porter. It is not that Porter's play in this case is holding the Saints back. Instead, it's that he's not playing. If Porter isn't able to play, Robinson remains the starting corner and Leigh Torrence remains in the nickel spot.
It's not that Torrence is incapable in that spot, but he is more suited for the dime position. The more these nickel and dime backs are playing, the more the Saints are essentially playing out of position. And success in this league is so dependent on playing to the strengths of each player.
Rogers and the Saints defense is aided by the rotation that includes Aubrayo Franklin, Sedrick Ellis, and Mitch King. Those four have seen a number of snaps at the defensive tackle spot thus far.
But Rogers is still struggling to make much of an impact on that defensive line.
My hypothesis for why both he and Aubrayo Franklin have been largely ineffective thus far is as follows:
Both are coming from base 3-4 defenses. And supposedly the defensive line is one of the hardest positions to learn for a rookie. Therefore it does not seem unreasonable that it would be a difficult position for a veteran to adjust to in a new scheme in limited amounts of practice.
Rogers' struggles have been more noticed, but Franklin has hardly made a huge impact to this point either. The Saints would be okay if they got the impact of one good defensive tackle from the two of them combined. But so far, Sedrick Ellis has been pretty much a one man wrecking crew at that spot.
In years past Shanle was a guy flying all over the football field making plays and was a very solid linebacker. So far this season he's been fairly quiet, which is definitely disconcerting for a defense that has a chance to be very good.
Herring was brought in having never been a full-time starter in his NFL career. Will was expected to challenge for a starting spot, and actually won a job. But truth be told, he really hasn't done whole lot so far. It's not that Herring isn't capable, but he seems lost in Gregg Williams' defense.
All this being said, the Saints defense is so talented and deep that these guys' struggles have been somewhat masked, especially this past week versus Chicago. Against Houston though these guys need to step up sooner rather than later.
Strief is a guy I thought had the capability to start in the NFL. Obviously Mickey Loomis and Sean Payton agreed with me.
So far we all seem to be wrong. Strief has given everything he has, and his struggles are certainly not due to a lack of effort. And facing pass rushers such as Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers isn't easy.
But Strief has been beaten on bull rushes and speed rushes thus far, and as a result Brees has gotten crushed a couple times.
Strief should bounce back against Houston and Jacksonville—two teams with little to no pass rush (save Mario Williams of course). He must, or Brees' fast start may not continue with millions of pass rushers in his face.