Before you blast the Saints' defense for giving up 125 yards rushing to the Browns, realize that 68 of those yards came on that stupid fake punt run by Craig Hodges. Take that away, and the Browns had a whooping 87 yards passing (13 of which came on that ridiculous pass from Peyton Hillis to Colt McCoy) and 57 yards rushing. Yes Hillis broke some tackles late and started to wear down the Saints, but can you really blame them? The offense is continually letting them down. Special teams let them down in this game, too. The only beef I have with the defense is two Malcolm Jenkins penalties. Take those away and they would have pitched close to a no hitter.Will Smith: C (2.17) Smith was very solid against the run, and pretty poor rushing the passer. He finished with 4 tackles, including 2 for a loss, but he's just been incapable of generating any kind of pressure on his own. The Browns obviously designed their offense around running, a lot, a giving Colt McCoy quick three step drops where he could get the ball out of his hands as quickly as possible. Smith is stout and he holds his ground well, but I still think his "groin injury" which I'm pretty sure is a reoccurrence of that hernia he's had problems with, has severely limited his mobility. As a result, he's really slow running after people. The play that hurt the most was Smith losing containment and letting McCoy run right past him as he went in hot pursuit of Peyton Hillis, who received a direct snap. Hillis would then lob the ball to McCoy for a crucial 1st down 13 yard pass. Granted, when a team throws the ball 17 times, that's not a lot of opportunities to get a sack.
Alex Brown: C- (2.00) I was really excited about how Alex Brown started the game. Twice, the Browns ran play action roll outs towards Brown, and both times he kept containment, read the play perfectly, and forced throws out of McCoy has he drove him to the turf. He had two hurries and two knock downs very early in the game. What happened after that? He did nothing. Zero tackles. Brown has a habit of disappearing for very long stretches of play.
Anthony Hargrove: C+ (2.05) He applied decent pressure to McCoy, registering a knockdown, and I thought he was good holding his ground against the run. He finished with just one tackle, but his hustle and energy were more visible than some.
Sedrick Ellis: C (2.67) He finished with 2 tackles and did a decent job of pushing the pile. That Pro Bowl talk needs to be put on hold for now, though, because Ellis still has too many snaps where he just takes the play off.
Remi Ayodele: B- (2.95) Both good and bad, he was the most active lineman. He was a menace against the run and constantly in the backfield. He did a great job pushing the pile and he hustled downfield to make tackles as well. He finished with 3 tackles, one of which was hitting Colt McCoy for a loss on what was ruled a "quarterback draw". That easily could have been ruled a sack. His tackling was suspect at times, though, and he could have helped the Saints by making more on that drive where Hillis gashed the Saints.
Danny Clark: B- (3.07) He was tough against the run. He finished with 3 tackles, and he tipped a McCoy pass once coming on a blitz causing an incompletion which forced a punt. He also hit McCoy once coming on a blitz. He made no mistakes, but was a little too quiet.
Jonathan Vilma: C+ (2.90) He finished with 5 tackles, but I thought he could have finished with many more. Like Ayodele, he had a few clear shots at Hillis and missed the tackle late. He also got beat badly on a flare pass underneath to Lawrence Vickers that would have gone for a solid gain had Vickers not dropped the ball. Right now, I feel like Vilma is just running a tad bit slow from sideline to sideline.
Jo-Lonn Dunbar: B+ (2.67) I thought Dunbar was active and physical. It was nice to see him hustling and getting in on the action. I thought he had the most complete game of the three backers. He finished with 4 tackles and a sack.
Marvin Mitchell: B (2.76) Mitchell finished with 3 tackles, including one in which he blew up Mike Bell late in the game for a huge loss. He did a great job of shooting the gap and reading the run on that play. Mitchell also saved a touchdown making a shoestring tackle downfield on that crazy punt return play by the Browns. Eric Wright caught a backwards pass across the field from Josh Cribbs, and it looked like he was going to score, but give Mitchell credit for hustling and making that tackle. The Browns would end up only getting 3 points out of that drive, so he helped his team. I'm a big fan of Mitchell's. He comes in from time to time on defense and I feel like he's always making little plays here and there, and he's usually very solid on special teams as well.
Malcolm Jenkins: C- (2.29) I thought his coverage was fairly soft. It was clear the Browns knew he had moved from free safety back to cornerback, and when they were going to pass they were going to test him. Though he had a team leading 9 tackles, a lot of that came from him being targeted and the play coming at him. He did a fairly solid job of tackling. Unfortunately, he killed the Saints with a huge pass interference play downfield and an illegal contact play on a 3rd and 6 play that gave the Browns an automatic first down. Those two plays were back breakers.
Patrick Robinson: B+ (2.80) The Browns never dared go after him. His coverage was impeccable. For a rookie I think he's got a very bright and promising future. Once on a screen pass, Robinson did a fantastic job of recognizing the play, giving the receiver a hard shot, and making sure the play went nowhere. He finished with 3 tackles.
Leigh Torrence: C+ (2.22) His tackling was overall poor, and I thought his special teams play was poor as well. That said, when he came into nickel coverage situations, he was fine overall. He finished with 3 tackles. Still, it scares me to see him back there.
Usama Young: C+ (3.00) He had one tackle, which was a massive hit on Ben Watson below his waist just after he caught a pass. Otherwise, for a starting free safety, he was very quiet. Part of the reason was the Browns were playing the epitome of a possession offense, but it still would have been nice to see Young play closer to the box and try to help out in run support or something. He did his job keeping everything in front of him, though.
Roman Harper: B- (3.34) He finished with 3 tackles and never really had much to do. He helped in run support and did a fine job. He was never exposed really in passing situations, though he did overrun a couple of screen passes.
Darren Sharper: C+ (2.33) Sharper had a quiet ho-hum debut for the most part. He came in blitzing once and tried to jump up to tip a pass. His legs got wiped up from under him and he landed on his neck/head, so I was glad he got up from that with no issues. Sharper had a nice tackle (if you can call it that) on the play that Jenkins got called for illegal contact. Too bad, no penalty and Sharper stops the runner short of the first down. He came up in run support and once laid a hard shot on Mike Bell. He finished with 2 tackles but was a couple steps slow in getting to any plays.
Garrett Hartley B- (1.94) Hartley made his lone field goal of 32 yards pretty comfortably. Something to build on. He also nailed his two extra point attempts. Hopefully he can continue to make his kicks, it was nice to see him play a game without a miss. That said, the depth of his kickoffs were so-so. I believe he only got one to the end zone, and all were returned. I know the Saints are looking to lighten Morstead's load, but I just think Morstead is far superior on kickoffs. Hartley also butchered his onsides kick attempt which hurts his grade a little.
Thomas Morstead: B- (3.29) Morstead had a good average of 51.0 yards on 4 punts including a beauty downed around the 2 yard line, but he outkicked his coverage most of the time, once which set up that razzle dazzle backwards pass play. With the return yardage his net was a woeful 25.5 yards per punt. Not entirely his fault because that one play caught the Saints off guard, but Cribbs did get some room to average 13.3 yards on 3 punt returns. With a dangerous returner like that you have to take him out of the game and Morstead gave him too many chances.
Courtney Roby: C- (2.86) He had 4 returns for an average of 20.8 yards. Not good. The one time he had a chance to really break one, he slipped. He was also a little passive in kneeling a couple times when I thought he maybe should have brought those returns out. Overall, he was a dud in the return game. He also missed a tackle of Josh Cribbs in coverage, though he did notch a tackle another time.
My Defensive Player of the Game: Jo-Lonn Dunbar
My Special Teams Player of the Game: Garrett Hartley