New Orleans Saints: 6 Winners and Losers at the Season's Quarter Mark
With a quarter of the regular season over, Sean Payton has a general idea of what roles specific guys will play for the remaining 12 games. As expected, there have been underachievers as well as those who have risen amongst their position players.
The main theme of the winners and losers is newly-added Saints. Here are the biggest busts thus far and the nicest surprises through four games.
Winner: Mark Ingram
The most yards per carry Mark Ingram has averaged in any game so far was 4.2, so why is the rookie running back a winner?
Pierre Thomas hasn't displayed the explosiveness that made New Orleans re-up the veteran. Thomas' carries have decreased in the last three weeks, reading 9, 7, 6. Meanwhile, Ingram has received double-digit carries in three games, getting his most last week in Jacksonville with 17.
Darren Sproles has his specific role, which doesn't threaten Ingram's time on the field. It's also time to say goodbye to Chris Ivory as he's on the Physically Unable to Perform list.
Loser: Pierre Thomas
Pierre Thomas will always have his place in the heart of Saints fans, as he was the running back for the 2009 Super Bowl squad, but this may mark the end. He's not as explosive coming off his ankle injury from last year, and the team has Mark Ingram to pound the pigskin.
When the season comes to a close, expect the front office of New Orleans to part ways with Thomas. The best comparison is how Marion Barber went out of Dallas.
Winner: Devery Henderson
Devery Henderson is showing the speed that got the speedster a track scholarship to LSU. Drew Brees gets to test his arm strength usually a couple times each game when the receiver is sprinting on a post route.
Twelve catches may not be impressive, but Henderson is making them count. He's averaging 22.1 yards per catch while having two touchdowns and two 100-yard games, against the NFC North Packers and Bears.
Henderson stepping up is well-needed as Marques Colston and Lance Moore have been banged up. Even as the other two get healthy, expect Sean Payton to continue to give Henderson a lot of burn.
Loser: Shaun Rogers, Aubrayo Franklin
For a man 350 pounds, or at least that's what he's listed at, Shaun Rogers sure has been getting pushed around quite a bit (see Week 1 vs. Packers on the goal line).
The good news is that New Orleans also brought in defensive tackle Aubrayo Franklin, who has been playing better than Rogers, but that isn't hard to do. Franklin isn't playing like the person that got franchised by San Francisco just two seasons ago.
The team still needs a better pass rush without Gregg Williams dialing up blitzes. Without one of the newly-added defensive linemen helping out Sedrick Ellis, it will be difficult throughout the season. Maybe Williams will opt to use some of his bigger defensive ends on the inside more.
Saints fans will see how much rookie Cameron Heyward can improve because he'll get his opportunities to make plays these guys aren't.
Winner: Jimmy Graham
Fantasy players had a hunch about Jimmy Graham breaking out in 2011, but the tight end still deserves much credit. This is his third year of high-level football.
Graham is easily a top five physically-gifted tight end in all of football, and Jeremy Shockey isn't missed. The middle of the field is a hard cover for opposing defenses with Graham as an option for Drew Brees. Graham's stats for the season read three touchdowns and two 100-yard games, with 10 catches last week against the Jaguars.
Look for Graham to only get better as the season progresses. As great as Graham has been, much of his potential is still untapped.
Loser: Patrick Robinson
Here's to you, Mr. Robinson.
Tracy Porter hasn't played in two contests, and the Saints defense wants the Super Bowl hero desperately even after a down season in 2010. New Orleans is middle of the pack in passing yards surrendered, and the team has given up the sixth-most passing touchdowns thus far. Jabari Greer isn't to blame either.
Patrick Robinson was torched opening night against Greg Jennings, but blame goes on defensive coordinator Gregg Williams for making that possible. Robinson will hopefully play better as the season unfolds, seeing how he's a second-year pro. He'll fall no further than third on the depth chart for corners.