I'll be doing the grades in the playoffs, but the GPA's will start back at zero. So another season of grades is in the books. Thanks all for your constructive, positive and critical feedback. I get a chance to read them all, even if I don't always respond. I appreciate that you all take the time to read them, and I enjoy getting your take watching the sames things I watch. Looking forward to it again next season! In this game, the defense was good overall, but they allowed big plays and made mistakes at crucial times which ultimately did the team in.Will Smith: B- (2.44) Tough to grade Smith because he was in Josh Freeman's face all game long. His pressure was outstanding, and he beat Tampa's left tackle Donald Penn routinely like a drum. The only issue was that he struggled mightily to bring Freeman down. While he did get one sack, he could have ended the game with three or even four, had he been able to bring Freeman down. Part of that is on Smith, who was in a position to make a play, but you have to give Freeman credit for having a fantastic combination of escapability and power. He finished last year with a 2.79 GPA, so this was a significant drop off for the season.
Alex Brown: B- (2.31) He played well and applied great pressure while also notching a sack. He finished with 3 tackles and was stout against the run. Unfortunately, he also missed some tackles including one on Freeman, and he gave the Bucs a 3rd down conversion by getting flagged for a horsecollar penalty. That penalty, by the way, was a close call - I thought he might have gotten all back jersey there. Charles Grant ended last year with a 2.08 GPA, so this was an upgrade.
Jeff Charleston: A (2.64) When he was in, he made the most of his opportunities. He got terrific pressure and he played with his usual motor. I'd really like to see this guy back next year as a reserve, assuming there is a next year. He had a terrific sack/force fumble/fumble recovery play where he bulldozed Freeman and come down with the hit with the ball. Give Will Smith credit on that play, too, for getting the initial pressure which forced Freeman into Charleston.
Jimmy Wilkerson: D (2.12) Despite a number of reps, he was unable to make any impact in the game. Too bad, I'm sure he wanted to play well against his old teammates.
Sedrick Ellis: A- (2.81) Did a great job up the middle at the point of attack, provided decent pressure all game, and hustled in pursuit of plays behind him. I thought he was mostly outstanding. He finished with 3 tackles, including one for a loss, but no play was bigger than his forced fumble that gave the Saints a chance to win. He had a 2.73 GPA last year, so he was slightly better this season.
Remi Ayodele: B (2.61) He had two tackles, including one for a loss. He was decent against the run though the Bucs were able to push him around a little bit at the point of attack. He finished last season with a 2.38 GPA, so this year was a major improvement. I thought he was one of the surprise bright spots on the season.
Scott Shanle: B+ (2.56) Shanle bounced back from a rough stretch to have a pretty good game in this one. He led the team with 10 tackles and two defended passes. He had perfect coverage on a bogus Michael Spurlock trick play pass. His tackling was decent and he did a great job helping against the run when Blount tried to run in between the tackles. My only gripe with Shanle is that he played too far from the line of scrimmage on passing plays, allowing passes in the flat in front of him all game long. Freeman was continually happy to take what Shanle was giving him. Still, Shanle tackled well to not allow most of those plays to develop into big gains. He had a 2.60 last season, so this year's GPA was almost identical.
Jonathan Vilma: C- (2.98) He didn't play much, or that well. He finished with just 1 tackle and spent most of his time jumping on piles as the play was ending. He finished last year with a 2.98, so an exactly identical GPA this year.
Danny Clark: B (2.79) I was surprised to see Clark start after Dunbar got the start last week and played so well. Give Clark credit, though, he came in and he played hard. He finished with 4 tackles, including 2 for a loss. Per usual, he did his best work against the run. Like Ayodele, he was another big surprise this season turning in a really good year.
Jo-Lonn Dunbar: B (2.90) He came in as a backup and had a huge fumble recovery. He also notched 2 tackles.
Marvin Mitchell: C (2.42) Finished with just 1 tackle, but he's been playing a lot on passing downs as a coverage linebacker and doing a good job on backs and tight ends. He did miss a couple tackles downfield today, though. He had a 2.67 last year, so this was a slight down year for him.
Tracy Porter: C- (2.47) He was up and down all day, both in coverage and tackling. One minute making a fantastic play in the end zone breaking up a deep ball, or making a terrific tackle in the open field, the next he was completely blowing his coverage or missing an easy tackle to allow a bigger gain. Most of all he should be criticized for jumping offsides on a 4th and 2 field goal that gave the Bucs a 1st down. There is just no excuse for that. He had 7 tackles, 1 for a loss, and 1 defended pass in the end zone. Overall I thought it was a disappointing year for him.
Jabari Greer: C- (2.67) He was beat for two touchdown passes, once in the corner of the end zone on a beautiful catch by Dezmon Briscoe, and once on a 4th and 1 bomb which was a jump ball to Mike Williams. Hard to fault him too much on either because his coverage was good, but he just got beat by perfectly thrown balls and great catches. He finished with 3 tackles.
Patrick Robinson: D+ (2.50) Most glaring was a bubble screen where Robinson missed an open field tackle, and he gave up a big lane on Michael Spurlock's 69 yard kickoff return. That was a big mistake because he was most responsible for that big return and the Saints had just tied the game at 10. He was ok in coverage and finished with 3 tackles. An up and down rookie year for him.
Leigh Torrence: C (2.48) He held his lanes fine on special teams and his coverage in spot duty was passable. He had no tackles.
Roman Harper: C+ (3.02) He finished with 6 tackles, but I remember his missed tackles much more. He had trouble with both Blount and Kellen Winslow, and I noticed him stiffed armed to the ground on a couple of occasions. Still, give him credit for a terrific season and a 3.02 season GPA. His GPA last season was 2.75. He ended the year as the best graded player on defense.
Malcolm Jenkins: C (2.62) He finished with 2 tackles and left the game early with an injury. I hope he's ok because the Saints need him on the back end making plays. Last year his GPA was 2.33, so the made a big jump this year grade wise.
Darren Sharper: C- (2.08) Despite extended play, he made no impact. He did have a nice tackle on Kellen Winslow when no one else could, but he finished with just 2 tackles despite playing the entire game. Per usual this season he was a step slow to all the action.
Pierson Prioleau: C (2.58) He had one tackle and made little impact in spot duty as a free safety.
Garrett Hartley: A- (2.81) Believe it or not, Hartley's GPA last season was 2.67. This year, at 2.81, was a big improvement. Based on the way his season started, that was far fetched as a possibility. Give him credit for how he closed the season. He's been automatic for the better part of the last 10 games or so. In this game he made kicks of 45 and 38, but wasn't great on kickoffs.
Thomas Morstead: D+ (3.06) He averaged just 31 yards per punt on 3 punts and a 29.7 net. Yikes. He did have a touchback on one of his kickoffs and he registered a tackle pushing Michael Spurlock out of bounds to save a touchdown. He ends the season tied with Jimmy Graham for the best GPA on the team. He finished an even 3.00 last year, so this was a very slight improvement.
My Defensive Player of the Game: Jeff Charleson
My Special Teams Player of the Game: Garrett Hartley