The grades will be continuing their existence past the retirement of former site manager (and creator) Andrew Juge, but with new management comes some new methods. I will be grading the Saints in all 3 phases each week just as Andrew did, but I won’t be going player by player, but instead by unit. This is to give a better understanding of the performance of each group as a whole, but I will be calling out players who stand out, for good, or for reasons of dumpster fire. Grades are based on performance relative to expectation and I try to take level of competition into account (basically this is the opposite of PFF which does none of that). It shouldn’t be possible to score worse offensively versus a mediocre defense than a great one…right? Wrong! The 2017 Saints can pull of the impossible as long as its bad.
Offensive Line: F
The Saints offensive line gets an F for a variety of reasons. Consistently giving up pressure at the worst possible times, giving up multiple pressures to a rookie playing on a poor defensive line, and worst of all getting absolutely zero push against a team missing their best defensive player and who lack any upper level run stuffers. That alone is grounds for a failing grade, but to achieve all 3 takes a special level of mediocrity. To be fair to the Saints they are missing both starting tackles and played musical chairs with the offensive line once again to the expected result, however, that really isn’t an excuse for what we saw. I would have been fine with a mediocre day all things considered, but the Saints should still be able to achieve more than ZERO push in the run game throughout the day against a team not built to stop it. They couldn’t and that’s why they failed.
Back to back weeks Drew has not had the level of performance you expect from him. I actually felt Brees played better this week than last, but the lower level of competition and a few missed throws (I am picking nits here without question) had a pretty big impact. The fact is that this grade really isn’t Drew’s fault, but since performance relative to level of competition and based on opportunity is how I’m grading this….he wasn’t great, if only by his own otherworldly standard.
Tight End: B+
Another week, another Fleener garbage time touchdown and some really nice plays by him. Fleener has been chippy, physical and surprisingly (pleasantly) effective through the first two weeks. I have no reason to change his grade or the units from last week as they performed well when called upon, did the little things that were asked of them, and didn’t cause any major issues.
Running Back: B-
Don’t let Mark Ingram’s stats fool you. Most of his (and the unit’s production) came in garbage time. The team couldn’t run the ball, and that had a major impact on the offensive performance early, but that had a lot to do with the fact they couldn’t block worth a damn. Ingram played well, and Kamara was 50/50 on big plays down the field (the incompletion was on him, not Drew), but AP was more like AD this week….All done. Watching the greatest running back of our generation have to give everything he had to pick up one yard on a toss play that should have gone for 10 was just sad. Peterson has nothing left in the tank, and gave the team very little. Use him in goal line because he’s still powerful, but Ingram and Kamara need to be the focus going forward.
Wide Receiver: C
Tedd Ginn Jr had some opportunities but wasn’t able to capitalize on them, and I feel like that was the story for the unit all day. Or it would be, if Brandon Coleman hadn’t been there. Coleman had a really standout day as he showed vision, good hands, and physicality up the field. Coleman isn’t going to ever be a star, but he is finally showing some of the signs we see in camp in the regular season. The grade remains low because the Saints simply weren’t able to move the ball effectively through the air consistently and they couldn’t convert on 3rd down. some of that is on Drew, most is on the offensive line, and some is on Willie Snead’s phone for not installing Uber, but the reality is the receivers are still finding themselves.
I felt last week despite fan outrage Payton called a good game against a great defense, execution was the issue. This week he took points off the board to try a random, and predictable, attempt to draw the Patriots offsides, just to go back and kick the field goal again. This was both weird, and stupid. The Saints didn’t commit to Ingram and Kamara, didn’t move Thomas to get him into a rhythm, and didn’t take advantage of Fleener who had some success getting open. I also put a lot of blame on Payton for deciding to shuffle the Saints line in a way that was doomed to fail from the start. It disoriented multiple players and put basically no one in a position to succeed. This was not Sean’s brightest day.