When you give up the most yards in NFL history in a season, you can expect terrible grades. But who was most to blame? This will help us examine which areas the Saints are more deficient in. Get ready, these are as ugly as you might expect. If you're interested for comparison's sake in how the team did last year, here was my 2011 write up.
Here's how the Saints players graded out in 2012:
4-3 DE: Junior Galette graded best of the team, grading out as the 19th best 4-3 DE out of 62 graded players. He had a positive grade mostly thanks to his exceptional pass rushing scores, which were good enough for 14th best. After that, Cam Jordan graded a middle of the road 37th, and Will Smith graded 61st out of 62 players. So PFF clearly felt Will Smith was by for the most disappointing of the three. Also notable is that Cam Jordan was rated as 3rd in run defense of the 62 graded players, so that's a real positive. Even better he was second in total tackles, and first in "stops". Unfortunately his grade was hurt by poor pass rushing. Overall I think the Saints' DE play was passable with the exception of Will Smith, who could almost not have graded out worse.
DT: Out of 85 graded interior defenders, Akiem Hicks and Brodrick Bunkley ended up tied at 27th. So not bad for either. Tom Johnson wasn't far behind at 39th, and most disappointing was Sedrick Ellis who was 61st. Their best pass rusher was Johnson who ranked 19th in that category, and their best run stopper was Bunkley who ranked 12 of all 85 graded linemen. Despite never getting a sack, Ellis did get 12th of all graded players in QB Hurries. Overall the production from this position was ok for the Saints. Definitely not great, but adequate.
4-3 OLB: Of 43 linebackers that qualified to make final grading, the Saints only had two in David Hawthorne and Jonathan Vilma. Vilma ended 32nd and Hawthorne ended 36th, so needless to say both were near the bottom and the OLB play for the Saints was largely atrocious.
MLB: Curtis Lofton was the only qualifier and he came in 45th out of 53, which is shockingly low. He was the 2nd worst blitzing and the 5th worst in coverage, so those were the main reasons why he graded so poorly. He was also 5th in most missed tackles. I think most of us felt like he was the bright spot on the defense this year, but PFF does not agree.
CB: As you could have guessed, the Saints' corners didn't do well this season in the grading. Of 113 graded corners, Jabari Greer graded best at 60th overall. Patrick Robinson was a bad 89th overall, which is higher than I would have expected. Corey White was 100th, and I am floored there were 13 corners that actually did worse. Corey White did grade second best in blitzing, but was also 2nd worst (112th) at defending the run. Quarterbacks completed 77.8% of their passes when throwing to Corey White, 3rd worst of 113 players. Patrick Robinson gave up 17.6 yards per completion, 2nd worst of 113 players. P-Rob also gave up 9 touchdown passes, more than anyone. Horrible.
S: Of 88 graded safeties, Roman Harper came in 87th and Malcom Jenkins came in 88th. No joke. Isa Abdul-Quddus came in a middle of the pack 40th. In coverage, Harper was dead last and Jenkins was 4th worst. Against the run, IAQ was 5th worst and Jenkins was 6th worst. Roman Harper gave up 46 receptions, no other safety gave up for than 41. Basically the play on the back end was possibly the worst ever.
My conclusions here is the only play the Saints got that was even passable was from the defensive line with the exception of Will Smith. After that, the linebacker play and the defensive backfield (basically the back 7) was the worst ever. The safety play in particular was could not possibly be more abysmal.
K: Thomas Morstead was rated as the 7th best kickoff man this year and Garrett Hartley graded as 45th out of 56. Which is kind of whatever, his conversion percentage remains fine.
P: Morstead was rated the #2 punter in the NFL only behind LSU Tiger Donnie Jones of the Houston Texans.
ST: Courtney Roby rated as the 15th best special teamer out of over 1,000 people graded. Awesome for him, and totally deserved. The Saints are crazy if they don't re-sign him. Isa Abdul-Quddus graded poorly and was tied for 3rd in missed tackles. Seems like tackling is IAQ's issue at the moment.
KR: Out of 225 graded return men, Travaris Cadet came in 216th! Wow! Darren Sproles came in 38th. Not a good year in the return game.