New Orleans Saints' Defensive and Special Teams Player Grades @ Miami Dolphins

Below are the grades for the Saints' defensive players and special teams @ Miami. The grade represents the player's performance in the game, and the GPA represents the player's cumulative grade for the season.

Saints vs Dolphins recap

Saints vs Dolphins boxscore

Will Smith: C (2.56) Smith disrupted the Dolphins' passing attack on occasion with nice pass rushes, but he was quieter than usual. Facing off with emerging superstar Jake Long was no easy task. He finished with just 1 tackle and a tipped pass, but did knock down Chad Henne a couple times.

Charles Grant: C- (2.33) Grant regressed a little from his stellar form of late. Just 1 tackle in the game and he was mostly neutralized on passing downs. He did a good job of holding his ground on running plays, especially against the wildcat, but I didn't see the hustle from him that had become such a pleasant surprise this season.

Bobby McCray: D (2.07) When he played, he literally did nothing. He hasn't had the kind of pressure on passing downs that I hoped he would have this season. Hopefully he can have a breakout game soon because I know for a fact he is capable of better.

Anthony Hargrove: A- (2.40) Speaking of breakout games, it's sad to say it but the Saints almost benefited from Sedrick Ellis going down to injury. From the second Hargrove stepped into a full time role, he dominated. He registered two sacks, including one where he completely ran over the left guard and pushed his way into Henne. He also dropped Ronnie Brown for a loss on a running play and ended with 4 tackles. With Ellis injured, expect more playing time for Hargrove and hopefully more big plays.

Sedrick Ellis: B- (2.78) Too bad he went down with a sprained knee, he's a big part of what the Saints do defensively. He had 3 tackles and provided good push and pressure up the middle. Hopefully he can come back quickly, his injury does not sound like a season ender but could linger a while.

Remi Ayodele: B- (2.34) Pretty good game from Ayodele. At times he played the wildcat masterfully and at others he was pushed around by the Dolphins' line. He ended with 4 tackles and was present up the middle. The Dolphins did convert twice on 3rd and short, running right at Ayodele with fullback Lousaka Polite.

Scott Shanle: B+ (3.11) Shanle was blown up a couple times by a lead block on running plays and he was manhandled out of position on the 68 yard touchdown run by former Saint Ricky Williams. Other than those plays, he was his usual solid self in run support and pass defense, and tackled as good as always. He finished with 6 tackles, including one in the backfield for a loss. His biggest play was a HUGE fumble recovery before halftime that led to a big touchdown. That fumble recovery was the start of the big momentum shift.

Jonathan Vilma: A (2.95) Vilma was pretty much dominant throughout. He was constantly in the backfield and all over the field making tackles. This was by far Vilma's best game of the season and he ended with 10 tackles (3 for losses). He stopped a run on 3rd and short absorbing a big block and standing his ground before laying a vicious tackle, getting the Saints the ball back when they needed it badly. His tackling ability was stellar all day and he was on point. Great to see him play that way. After that long Ricky Williams touchdown run, you saw very few successful plays by the Dolphins on the ground and that was largely due to Vilma's presence.

Jabari Greer: B+ (3.61) Per usual, he was helpful in run support and very good in pass defense. He jumped a flag route beautifully but let a sure interception go through his hands. 4 tackles and 2 passes defended. Could Greer be inching close to the "lockdown corner" label? Maybe not, but at the least he's VERY good.

Tracy Porter: B+ (3.11) Porter had a couple egregious plays overshadowed by his tremendous plays. He had 9 tackles and was picked on often with mixed results. He defended 3 passes, including a deep ball that was played perfectly and a tipped pass into the hands of Darren Sharper that set up a 42 yard touchdown return. Porter took a horrible angle on Ricky Williams' long touchdown run and he played a slant route poorly that resulted in a 67 yard pass to Brian Hartline. Porter did show impressive aggression on his hits and impressive speed catching up to Hartline at the Saints' 5 yard line. Ultimately his most memorable play was the game sealing 54 yard interception return for a touchdown. The Saints are lucky to have such a good young corner.

Randall Gay: B- (3.09) Randall Gay was victimized on the Dolphins' first third down conversion pass of the game covering Davone Bess. While it was clear on the replay that Bess dropped the pass, the replay booth magically "malfunctioned" during the Saints' challenge. Suspect at best. Gay had 3 tackles. Nothing special, no big mistakes.

Roman Harper: B- (3.17) Harper laid some big hits but over-pursued a lot. He didn't play the wildcat perfectly, but he was active. He finished with 4 tackles, but misplayed two of the short touchdown runs. His grade could have been worse, but he forced the fumble before halftime that Shanle recovered.

Darren Sharper: A- (3.28) Sharper stepped up and made some plays in the running game, and had yet another interception run back for a touchdown. That's 6 interceptions in 6 games, and 3 touchdowns. That guy is incredible, and he's having a Pro Bowl season. He finished with 4 tackles including a terrific open field tackle on Ronnie Brown. The one bad play was a bad angle on the long pass play to Hartline, but overall Sharper was solid.

Troy Evans: C (1.67) Evans filled in for Fujita and was attacked on running plays often. Luckily, Vilma moved well sideline to sideline and helped the Saints defense immensely. Evans finished with 2 tackles and he was quiet. He seemed a little lost at times in the Saints' complex defense, but didn't have any serious errors.

Jo-Lonn Dunbar: C+ (2.33) Dunbar was subbed in often for Evans in the second half and did some nice things, especially in pass coverage. On Ronnie Brown's pass to Fasano he laid a nice hit to make sure the ball fell incomplete once Fasano bobbled it. He had 2 tackles as well, and I'm thinking he might be a better option than Evans if Fujita needs to miss another game. Ultimately Dunbar didn't play enough or do enough to earn a better grade.

John Carney: B- (2.72) I was really impressed by the 46 yarder that Carney hit early on. It was right down the middle and had some distance. I thought to myself, "he's going to get an A today". He missed from 50 later on just a little wide, but had nice distance on the kick - hard to blame him for that one. He missed an extra point but it was largely Mark Brunell's fault for bobbling the snap. Still, 2 missed extra points in 6 games is inexcusable. The Saints need to get that rectified immediately because it left them up 6 points late in the game and potentially exposed to a loss if the Dolphins had gotten into the end zone. He did bounce back to hit a chip shot that extended the lead to 6.

Thomas Morstead: A- (3.22)
Morstead had a bad punt early that went 35 yards and still got a 14 yard return from Davone Bess. Besides that weak effort he was very solid, including a big 53 yarder from the end zone to get his team out of trouble that was aided by a terrific Courtney Roby tackle. He averaged 45.7 yards per punt on 3 punts, and the Saints yielded 8.7 yards per return on 3 returns. Most importantly he gave the Dolphins no chance at a kickoff return late with 3 straight kickoffs for touchbacks. He did have a kickoff out of bounds, but I'll give him a pass on that since the game was out of reach after the Porter touchdown.

Courtney Roby: B+ (2.67) Roby finally broke a kick return free, returning it 87 yards. While that was a big play that got the Saints right back into the game after going down 7-0, he was caught from behind and he spiked the ball resulting in a 5 yard penalty. Overall his returning the rest of the way was perfectible. The punt coverage play mentioned above where he hit Ted Ginn Jr. for a 2 yard loss following a 53 yard punt was one of the better kick coverage plays of the season.

Defensive Player of the Game: Jonathan Vilma
Special Teams Player of the Game: Thomas Morstead

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