Did you miss the player grades? They're baaaaaack. Or maybe you've always hated them. Either way, below is the grading of each starter and a few key backups for this game against the Vikings. Offense this time, and you'll get defense and special teams later. If you are not familiar with the grading from last year, the letter grade represents the player's performance for that game, and the GPA is the cumulative scoring on the season. Let me also take a moment to say that I, for one, was disappointed slightly in the Saints' performance. A win is a win, and we'll take it, but I thought the playcalling was poor in the first half. I thought that was more on the coaching staff than the players this time around. That said, the defense was spectacular. The Saints will have some things to work on, though, coming up on the MNF game against the 49ers. Make the jump for the grades!
Drew Brees: B+ (3.33) Boy did he come out firing on that first drive or what? Brees looked masterful at times, and safe at others. First off he needs to be commended for not turning the ball over and only being sacked once, because that's as good of a defensive line and he may face all season. Give the offensive line a ton of credit as well. Brees didn't have very flash numbers: 27-36 for 237 yards and 1 touchdown. His numbers could have been more flashy if Meachem comes up with that touchdown grab. Brees did miss a wide open Devery deep at one point by overthrowing the ball, but he also did a good job of scrambling out of the pocket and throwing on the run. No real complaints with Brees, he was on point and efficient, I just can't give him a better grade than B+ when he throws for 237 yards, 1 touchdown, and the offense only puts up 14 points. Otherwise, I thought he was very solid overall.
Pierre Thomas: B+ (3.33) Thomas was non-existent in the first half. I was starting to wonder if he was hurt and not playing at one point. Then, the Saints came out in the second half and decided to dedicate a drive to handing him the football, and to no surprise we scored. Hey coach Payton, take note that running the football from time to time can actually work! Pierre had a great run on the touchdown play, too, looking very tough through traffic. Some of his runs early on were sniffed out and stuffed, but he got better as the game progressed. His screen plays were more ineffective than usual, so credit the Vikes for being ready for that. Thomas had a nice play called back by penalty, too, so that effected his stat line. He finished with 71 yards on 19 carries, a touchdown, and 3 catches for 15 yards. I will say that he didn't run through tackles like he normally does.
Reggie Bush: B (3.00) I thought Bush looked very explosive and flashy, and I was disappointed that he didn't see the ball more. He finished with 2 carries for 14 yards, and 5 catches for 33 yards. He also returned 3 punts for 7 yards. His punt returning wasn't as bad as usual, though, because at least he was running forward. Those numbers were more thanks to the Vikings coverage than Bush running backwards. I think he's committed himself to running forward. Like I said, I would have liked to see the ball in his hands more, especially on the ground. 2 carries isn't enough. Give him a lot of credit, too, for bailing Drew Brees out on a bad security valve throw that Bush caught off his shoe top and turned into a big gain for a first down. That was a big time play.
Heath Evans: B+ (3.33) First off, he showed terrific hands on his lone 7 yard reception to basically seal the game late, getting a first down. We all know his stock in trade is blocking, and if you go back and watch the game tape of that touchdown drive, Heath was running a clinic out there. The holes he blew up on Thomas' 5 yard run to the 1 yard line, and Thomas' touchdown, were masterful. He did look a tad bit slow and gimpy out there, so I think he's still probably working his way back to 100%. There were a couple blocks he whiffed on, mostly due to lack of speed. He was also the lead blocker on kickoff returns and did an ok job there, but his blocks out of the I were overall sensational, especially on that touchdown drive.
Marques Colston: B+ (3.33) Colston, per usual, was Brees' go-to target for the tough yards underneath. He also ran a perfect seam play and catch to start the opening drive. Colston finished with 5 catches and 65 yards. He had sure hands and ran crisp routes.
Devery Henderson: B+ (3.33) Henderson finished with just 2 catches for 38 yards, but both catches were huge. His first was a 29 yard touchdown, where he did a great job of breaking off his route once Brees flushed out of the pocket, and he beat his man badly. He also showed terrific toughness taking that tackler into the end zone on that same play. His second catch was a 9 yarder that moved the chains late in the game that was part of that terrific drive to seal the deal. I also mentioned that he was wide open on another deep route on the second drive of the game, but Brees overthrew him on a play that could have resulted in another touchdown. I noticed Henderson looked a little injured at one point, but he finished the game.
Lance Moore: B- (2.67) Moore had just 3 catches for 23 yards, but he was his usual reliable self. He ran crisp routes and provided a nice option underneath for Brees. It's nice to see him healthy. I have no doubt he's going to make some huge plays as this season progresses. That guy has better hands than just about anyone.
Robert Meachem: C+ (2.33) Meachem had 3 catches for 33 yards, including a fantastic grab on a play where Brees fumbled the snap, and managed to recover and lead Meachem, who had beaten his man fairly convincingly. Meachem's most memorable play, unfortunately, was dropping a picture perfect pass by Brees in the end zone. It wasn't an easy catch, but it's one I've come to expect Meachem to make. That catch would have made the end of the game much less stressful. It seemed like he had it for a second, but the replay clearly showed the ball hit the turf. I did give his grade a slight boost, though, because his blocking downfield on running plays was excellent. I almost think he's a better blocker than Colston, even.
Jeremy Shockey: C+ (2.33) Is Shockey still the starter? I noticed David Thomas trotting out for the first offensive play of the game. Shockey was fine, as he caught the 3 passes that came his way for 23 yards, including one terrific back shoulder sideline throw by Brees. Shockey made the most of very few opportunities, but I was surprised how little snaps he got. In running formations, the Saints were trusting Thomas more. Is Shockey not 100%, or do the Saints like David Thomas more at this point?
David Thomas: C (2.00) Brees went Thomas' way on 4 passes, and it resulted in 2 catches for 3 yards. Thomas could have made more of those catches but he couldn't break tackles. His blocking was good overall, but we've definitely seen him play better in the passing game. I'd like to see him get more involved downfield like Shockey does.
Jermon Bushrod: A (4.00) Matched up against Jared Allen, Bushrod had some help, but he played brilliantly. Allen finished with 4 tackles and hit Brees just once, with no sacks. Allen was a non factor. Given the number of times Brees dropped back, and the fact that the Vikings were basically expecting pass on every single play, that's pretty remarkable. Credit Brees, as always, for a good release, but Bushrod handled his job admirably. Bushrod was also physical in the run game, and showed effort coming out to block at the second level as well. He's really making strides as a left tackle, and I'm not even sure he's the weakest link on this line anymore. He stands tall with the rest of the guys. Great game.
Carl Nicks: A- (3.67) The Saints had most of their success running the ball on the left side. Like Heath Evans, Nicks was mauling people on that touchdown drive. He also did a good job of pass blocking. A solid all around game from Nicks. The only reason I drop his grade from an A is because he did a poor job pulling on a couple screen plays to Pierre Thomas, which is why those plays went nowhere. On the interior he was a beast, though. Fantastic job.
Jahri Evans: B- (2.67) Not his best game. His pass blocking was impeccable, as always, but the Saints really struggled running to the right side. The Vikings are very tough on the interior, but he didn't seem to have his way like he normally does in the trenches. He was also called for a holding penalty.
Jonathan Goodwin: B (3.00) Goodwin is crazy quick for his size. He's got great feet and I love seeing him at the second level. Can you imagine being a weakside linebacker and having goody running at you? I'd be terrified. The running game was a little up and down, but Goodwin did his thing out there. I think the muffed snap was on Brees, but those two have been playing together long enough that that shouldn't happen.
Jon Stinchcomb: C (2.00) Not his best game. He struggled in pass blocking, and he struggle in run blocking. At times he seemed to be in control and settled in, but the most pressure all night was coming from his side. He gave up a sack to Jayme Mitchell, and at least one other hit on Brees. He was also called for a holding penalty. It's not like he was struggling all night and gave up a ton of plays, but he didn't really have much success on his side either
My Offensive Player of the Game: Jermon Bushrod