Another week goes by, another team goes down, and the Saints offense comes out once again looking solid, consistent, but unspectacular once again. In the recent past the thought of the Saints offense only putting up 20 points on the road against a bad team would be a sign of the end of days for me, it would mean the Brees and Payton era was over, the Saints got blown out, and its time to blow it up. Those are the reactions you expect after a bad loss, however those are not the reactions today. The defensive grades will come out tomorrow, but in the meantime we’ll take a look at how the Saints managed to only put up 20 points, yet still managed to grade out very well.
Drew Brees wasn’t spectacular in this game, and his own standards are the only reason this isn’t just a solid A. Drew played his 4th straight game of turnover free football (a career high to start the season) and provided the team with leadership and a steady poise that allowed the team to execute and methodically dissect the Dolphins. Despite the lack of big plays, Brees was constantly effective, consistently safe with the football, and he wore down the Dolphins defense despite missing several key players on offense (and losing Zack Strief for the season in the game).
Offensive Line: B
Once again the run blocking was less than good, however Ndamakung Suh is the most physically gifted interior player the Saints will play all year (yes, more than Donald, but they are different players). What was impressive is the offensive line managed to hold up well against a strong Miami front, and didn’t fall off once Strief went down and they had to shuffle the line once again. Staying strong despite losing a tackle and having shifts all over the line is deserving of praise, and they did very well in pass protection. The hope is that the two week break will help build continuity on the offensive line with the (presumed) return of Terron Armstead. That is the only hope for the run game to truly get going in my opinion, but the unit overall held up well and weren’t a liability.
Running Back: B
Ingram struggled on a couple of pass protections, and didn’t have the same level of production he had last week, and Peterson didn’t get a single good hole to run through in his whole 4 carries, so under those circumstances you would expect a lower grade here, but we have a third guy in this group. Alvin Kamara was everything we hoped he would be on Sunday. Kamara was good between the tackles, good as a chess piece to free up others (including Michael Thomas which seems to be a new favorite set), and most importantly Kamara caught 10 passes on 10 targets including the dagger TD to ice the game. Kamara being viable on the ground and through the air will help Payton use him to create opportunities for others, and the Saints will be more likely to have the versatile and dangerous offense they are know for with him. He really boosted the units grade with his performance on Sunday.
Tight Ends: C-
It’s tough to grade the Saints tight ends negatively as they just aren’t being asked to do a lot. Hooman and Hill block well, receive passes when asked, and give maximum effort (although Hill did get concussed and I hope he’s ok). Fleener has had very consistent and reliable hands this year, but he just has not been a featured element in the offense. The tight end group isn’t being asked to do more, so I can’t dock them for not doing much, but I’m not going to reward them either. Sometimes it sucks to be the guys doing the dirty work.
Wide Receivers: C+
Michael Thomas is a stud and his ability after the catch with the ball in his hands is special, and his hands are truly elite. He still has yet to show ability as an elite playmaker down the field, but that is literally the only missing element in his game. Ginn continues to be a steady and useful weapon in the Saints offense, another great end around rush, and a great catch on a back shoulder throw, Ginn has been a useful yet unspectacular part of the Saints offense. I fully believe he will be further unleashed when Snead and Armstead return. Another guy who has been unspectacular, but solid is Brandon Coleman. He blocks well, plays hard, and makes at least one play of note every game. The unit needs Snead back, but they are making things work without him so far.
The Saints took a patient and measured approach. They seemed to understand that Miami’s only real shot in this game was to force turnovers and get some short fields. Miami has a bad offense and no confidence, that was readily apparent and the Saints knew it. They decided that discretion was the better part of valor and played some good ball control offense (especially in the second half). This isn’t always what we would want, but it was the right move on Sunday, especially once Strief went down.