Brace yourselves because it isn't pretty. I know I sometimes get criticized for being too harsh in my grading of certain players, and if you're one of the people that generally complains about that you will not be happy with some of these grades. As always I'm interested and looking forward to your feedback. Below are the player grades for defense and special teams at Washington. The letter grade represents the player's performance in the game and the GPA represents the player's cumulative effort on the season.
Charles Grant: D (2.14) Charles Grant finished with 2 tackles, both coming late in the contest. Otherwise, he was utterly and completely invisible. On most running plays, he was either blown completely off the ball and out of the play, or he overpursued the edge leaving massive running lanes for the Redskins to take advantage of. He really had a horrible, horrible game and at one point I considered giving him an F. If he hadn't registered a tackle, I would have given it to him. Grant has been undisciplined in his play, lazy, and overall bad as of late. I'd rather Bobby McCray get more snaps at the position at this point.
Bobby McCray: B- (2.06) McCray's lone tackle was on a running play where he blew the Redskins up for a big loss. Once again he surprised me by playing the run better and I think that part of his game has come a long way. His pass rushing skills have suffered a little from that improvement, but I can deal. He did get upfield a couple of times and force a quick release, but the bottom line is Campbell was getting the ball out too fast to wide open targets to get much of a pass rush. McCray doesn't get nearly enough playing time, and based on Grant's recent performances I'd like to see him start at Atlanta. Who knows if that'll happen, but a man can hope.
Anthony Hargrove: C- (2.36) The love affair with Hargrove for most continues despite him struggling to do much of anything in games. I'd say at this point he's played 2-3 good games, but the guy is a defensive end to me. The switch to defensive tackle hasn't worked out that well and he hasn't played the run with any inspiration. He finished with 1 tackle and was seen knocked off the ball repeatedly.
Sedrick Ellis: B- (2.71) Ellis finished with 6 tackles, including 1 for a loss. He's slowly getting back to his pre-injury level of play. He did allow a few players to slip out of his grasp by not wrapping up properly and showing poor tackling technique, but the effort and pursuit was always there. The Redskins only rushed for 88 yards and a 3.5 average per carry, so while it would seem like everything the Redskins did worked, the Saints were actually very good against the run.
Remi Ayodele: B+ (2.24) BY FAR, in my opinion, Ayodele's best game as a Saint. For me this was his coming out party. I've been hard on this guy all season and I've constantly complained about how this guy can be in the mix, but now I understand why. He was pushing the pile constantly, FANTASTIC against the run, and came up big on several third and short plays. The Redskins had no answer for his push up front, and as the game wore on the Redskins essentially gave up on running the ball because it wasn't really working and the pass yardage was coming so easy. He finished with 6 tackles, including one for a loss, and anytime a player was in his grasp he wasn't getting away.
Scott Shanle: B- (2.67) I heard rumblings that some fans were unhappy with Shanle's play, but I actually thought he was ok. On one running play he absorbed a strong block, opened his shoulder and was able to stop a run for no gain dead in it's tracks. Impressive play there, and overall Shanle used the lanes Ayodele and Ellis provided him to be effective stopping the run. He finished with 4 tackles, but he did miss a tackle or two. The major liability, for me, came in his pass coverage. He did a poor job on Fred Davis. Suprising because Shanle usually does a good job covering but he just couldn't run with Davis. Shanle got good pressure on the Vilma interception blitzing, forcing a quick release and bad pass from Campbell.
Jonathan Vilma: B- (2.92) Vilma finished with 5 tackles, but I thought he had a mediocre game overall. He wasn't aggressive and shooting gaps like he normally does. As I screamed at the TV for the defense to make a play, every time I'd notice Vilma pursue a play and get blocked out of contention. He saved his grade with a BIG interception with about 30 seconds left in regulation. That pick stopped a Redskins drive that could have given them a shot at a game winning field goal.
Malcolm Jenkins: D (2.76) The good: he had 9 tackles and was able to knock Campbell down on a blitz from the edge. The bad: those 9 tackles were a product of him getting beat repeatedly, and he dropped the easiest interception he'll ever get which would have killed a Redskins drive late in the red zone. The ugly: he looked like a rookie that was completely lost out there. He took horrendous angles on ball carriers, he bit badly on any fakes and double moves, he was often beat deep, and the "lack of speed" that many pre-draft gurus warned teams about before selecting Jenkins was exposed BIG TIME. He still tackled well, and he's just learning so I don't feel like we should all take the sky is falling approach by any means. Jenkins is still a good young player that will only get better... but this was a really bad showing for him. Hopefully he'll learn from it.
Roman Harper: D (3.03) Harper played his worst game of the season, hands down. We all know he's usually terrific in the box in run support, and we all know he's somewhat of a liability in coverage (especially downfield). Well, in this game he was bad in the box, and he was laughable against the pass. ESPN currently claims he had 4 tackles, whereas NFL.com has him listed as having as 2 tackles. So I don't know which one is accurate. What I did see was that Harper missed a repeated amount of opportunities to tackle someone, and his help over the top on pass plays downfield was late and pathetic. He gets a D instead of a D- for saving a touchdown on a kick return by Devin Thomas.
Darren Sharper: C (3.09) Sharper finished with 5 tackles. His lack of speed was an issue. On Fred Davis' first touchdown he took a bad angle and was beat to the corner. He was late bringing help over the top, like Harper. That said, Sharper was many times the security blanket, and he at least did a good job of limiting the damage. I felt like there were a few plays that were just "bad" instead of "disastrous" because Sharper was there to end them. Give him credit for coming up with a HUGE stop on 3rd and short right before Shaun Suisham's miracle miss.
Troy Evans: D+ (1.55) Evans did finish with 5 tackles, but he was bad in pass coverage and bad in run defense. Twice I caught Sean Payton laying into him on the sidelines for missing assignments. He was third in line to play the position, but had to play with the starting unit once Scott Fujita was made inactive and Jo-Lonn Dunbar got injured early (looked like a hamstring pull). I hear Fujita may be out for a while after he had emergency surgery following a bursa sac rupture in his knee that caused a staph infection. I don't know if that means he's out for the year or what, but we're in MASSIVE trouble if we can't get Fujita back. Too bad, he was playing at a high level. Evans, however, was not. Hopefully Dunbar can get back on the field because he's a much more palatable option.
Pierson Prioleau: C- (2.50) He was ok in coverage, actually, except for one play where he played too far off his receiver and allowed a first down in front of him. He finished with 3 tackles. He'd get a better grade, but he came up with a real boneheaded facemask penalty late that gave the Redskins a chance to win the game.
Usama Young: B- (3.00) He got some reps again at corner in dime packages after McKenzie went out with an injury. His coverage was good and he handled himself fine. He didn't really have anything memorable to write about, but no mistakes either. His biggest play came on special teams when he recovered a fumble right before halftime to give the Saints good field position after they had been stopped down 17-10.
Mike McKenzie: D- (2.17) As good as he was last week, it was back down to earth for Mike McKenzie. McKenzie just couldn't seem to do anything right whatsoever. He was beat deep routinely. He blew just about every open field tackle he had a chance at making. He gave receivers way too much cushion, and yet they would still blow right past him. At one point he took a terrible angle, and Sharper made the tackle behind him and gave him a death stare and screamed letting him not it's not ok to mess up plays like that. At times he seemed disinterested in being out there. At one point he was beat deep, the receiver then fell down, and McKenzie didn't even bother hustling to touch him down. He did finished with 4 tackles, but probably could have had about 10-15 with the number of plays being run right at him. The injury he suffered in the game is unknown, but I was glad it took him out of the game. He flirted with an F for large portions of the game.
Chris McAlister: C+ (2.50) McAlister, like Jenkins and McKenzie, was getting beat routinely and did a poor job of tackling the screen receiver pass the Redskins ran all day. He gave a lot of cushion to his man as well, inciting the Redskins to continuously use that play. He finished with 3 tackles. McAlister, though, came up with arguably the biggest play of the game. He hit Mike Sellers and managed to jar the ball loose in overtime, and had the good sense to recover the fumble as the whistle was being blown and Sellers was called down. The replay showed the head referee that it was indeed a fumble (not sure about that call, but I'll take it), and McAlister single handedly got the Saints the ball in overtime. Ultimately, they would turn that turnover into the game winning 3 points.
Garrett Hartley: A- (3.67) Surprise move to see Sean Payton go with Hartley for this game instead of John Carney. Chris Berman on ESPN said at one point that Carney was hurt, but I think he's misinformed. I think this move was strictly performance based, though I could be wrong. Regardless, Hartley was excellent. All of his kicks were right down the middle. He was 4 for 5 on field goals with a long of 34 yards. His miss was a 58 yarder as time expired, so it's hard to blame him for that miss. Extra points might not be a big deal, either, but Carney has been shaky on that all season long and Hartley did tie the game at 30 with his PAT after Meachem's touchdown. He also hit the game winning 18 yarder, twice, as the first was called back by a Zorn timeout. I don't think there's any way Carney kicks next week and this could mean the end of the veteran's reunion run with the Saints. Hartley was impressive with his accuracy.
Thomas Morstead: C (3.00) Morstead's kickoff depth was much shorter than usual. To be expected given the weather and field temperatue. He did manage to get one about half way into the end zone in overtime, which was an important time to do so. His punts were largely poor, as he averaged 33.3 yards on 3 punts. He did manage to pin one inside the 20, though. One of his punts was so short, it hit an unsuspecting Redskins' blocker in the back, resulting in a turnover for the Saints. The punt was bad, but the end result was magnificent.
Courtney Roby: B+ (3.00) Roby was routinely getting past the 30 on kickoff returns, and almost broke one big on a couple of occassions. Per usual his returns were impressive. He also made a nice tackle on special teams as a gunner.
My Defensive Player of the Game: Remi Ayodele
My Special Teams Player of the Game: Garrett Hartley