The Saints defense did a fantastic job in this game, no question about it. Still, it's hard to get too excited about the performance when you consider the Jaguars actually improved their points per game average on the season with a ten point output (that's no joke).
The Jaguars offense is it's own biggest enemy, and I'm not the least bit sold on Blaine Gabbert. Gabbert was grossly inaccurate in this game, especially as it progressed, and I seriously wonder if this guy has what it takes to be a long term starting quarterback in the NFL.
More than anything, I have to question how serious the Jaguars were about winning this game when they gave Maurice Jones-Drew twelve touches. They have a rookie quarterback who is struggling mightily, few players on offense doing anything positive all season and they barely give the ball to one of the best running backs in the league? I'm not a Jags fan, but if I was I'd be calling for the play caller's head after this one. That is inexcusable.
Anyway, as a Saints fan, I never really felt the outcome of this game was at risk because the defense wasn't going to let the Jags score. The most important part of this performance was the three and out stop that yielded a field goal before halftime in the red zone following the first Drew Brees interception. If the Jags score there, it's 14-14. Instead, the Saints D made it clear they weren't going to give up anymore points in this game.Will Smith: B+ (3.33) He wasn't as big of a disruptive force in this game against the run because there was almost no need to be. Despite being an offense built around the run, the Jags passed 42 times and ran 17 times. What's wrong with that picture? Smith did a great job rushing the passer and finished with 2 sacks. He also knocked down Gabbert another time. His return to the lineup has been huge.
Turk McBride: C (2.33) He didn't do much and finished with no tackles, but deserves a lot of credit in a 3 man rush for somehow getting to the quarterback and hitting Gabbert as he threw it. He showed great speed around the edge on that play. When you've got 5 blockers and 3 rushers that should never happen, but McBride has been a good rusher for the Saints this year.
Cameron Jordan: C+ (2.25) He finished with two tackles, and was robbed of a sack (chasing Gabbert out of bounds behind the line of scrimmage) due to a defensive penalty. You just sense this kid is close to having a breakout game. Great effort and potential was evident, but he's yet to really excel yet.
Aubrayo Franklin: D+ (1.67) Despite just 17 carries, the Jaguars still rushed for 104 yards. Franklin didn't do an effective job in the trenches and he tackled poorly. Twice players slipped easily out of his grasp. He finished with 1 tackle. When is this guy supposed to show up?
Shaun Rogers: C- (1.75) He also had a whooping 1 tackle, granted it was a decent one. Praised as a "disruptive force" in teh backfield when he was signed, I've yet to see it. Granted, he's not even really getting on the field enough to impress or depress anyone all that much.
Sedrick Ellis: C- (2.09) He finished with 1 tackle and tipped a pass. Like his other trench mates, he didn't get enough penetration and wasn't making a difference against the run. Not a great day for any of those guys.
Scott Shanle: D+ (1.75) Shanle was beaten badly by Jones-Drew on an out pass but luckily for him Jones-Drew bobbled the ball and Shanle alertly shoved him to force the pass incomplete. I couldn't believe Gabbert didn't exploit that matchup more often, and I'm surprised the Saints were content to leave Shanle on him in passing situations. Shanle was again slow to the play and running after the play most often. He finished with 4 tackles, including a nice one in the backfield. He actually did ok in coverage. The main reason for the really bad grade is he gave the Jaguars 1st downs on two 3rd down plays that were stopped dead in their tracks. The Jags were set to punt on both and instead he kept the drive alive giving them a new set of downs. The penalties were defensive holding, and a facemask. Why help out an offense that's already so pathetic on it's own? Not impressive.
Jonathan Vilma: B- (2.00) Nothing special, but he did his thing out there. He finished with 5 tackles, most well past the line of scrimmage, and he broke up the final Gabbert pass on 4th down to end the game. He played fine and it was nice to have him back.
Jo-Lonn Dunbar: C (2.89) Finished with 2 tackles and as a reminder, I love his physical presence in between the sticks. He was fortunate his spotty coverage wasn't victimized thanks to facing a highly inaccurate quarterback.
Jonathan Casillas: C (2.25) He didn't do much and didn't get a chance to play many reps, but the one notable play was a blitz where he came in and rushed Gabbert, putting a little hit on him. Love the blitzing dimension he offers.
Jabari Greer: B+ (2.83) He gave up a few plays early in the game and he was fortunate that his receiver had a couple drops. He was also flagged early in the game for pass interference. As the game wore on, though, his coverage got better and better. By the end he was reading Gabbert like a book and jumping all his reads. He came very close to getting a pick. He also had a fabulous break up on a long ball to Zach Miller, running step for step the whole way with him. Another solid performance in coverage. He also tackled well. He finished with 5 tackles and 3 defended passes.
Tracy Porter: B (2.67) Porter has been out for a couple weeks with a calf issue, but he showed no evidence of that problem as he chased down Mike Thomas on a bubble screen that broke free. That play was going for a touchdown and Porter showed oustanding speed to run him down. Porter also came very close to an interception, tackled well, and looked good in coverage. He finished with 2 tackles, one for a loss, and a defended pass.
Patrick Robinson: B+ (2.25) He registered the first pick of his career and did a great job on that play of baiting Gabbert into that throw. His Reggie Bush-esque attempt after the pick needs serious work, though. He also did a great job making a tackle behind the line of scrimmage on a screen pass. He was credited as defending two passes and covered well. The only negative was on that big screen play to Thomas where he didn't run up to the play and try to make a tackle.
Leigh Torrence: C+ (2.92) He had just one tackle but he covered pretty well and his special teams play was useful.
Malcolm Jenkins: C+ (2.33) He had 3 tackles and was physical. I'm still waiting for him to make a play though. When he is going to get his team the football with a takeaway? I think we've all been waiting for that truly special season from him this year and it's yet to happen.
Roman Harper: B (2.09) He was all over the field, led the team in tackles with 8, had a sack, and hit Gabbert another time. Most importantly, the poor tackling that plagued the team earlier in the year seems at least partially fixed and that's in large part due to Harper correcting his miscues. He did give up a couple pass plays including the touchdown pass to Zach Miller, but overall I thought he played well.
John Kasay: C+ (3.17) I never expected Kasay to drill 50 yarders by any means, but his two misses weren't pretty. The first was close, but the kick had weird rotation and seemed clubbed. His second 50 yard attempt was missed by a mile. I really don't feel comfortable with the Saints trotting him out there with kicks outside of 45 yards. He did make all three of his attempts inside 40 yards, though. Hard to blame him for his misses, he is older than 40 and those were long kicks outdoors. I feel like he did what was expected for the most part.
Thomas Morstead: A (3.75) His lone punt was a 58 yard blast returned only 4 yards. He got plenty of touchbacks and the ones the Jags returned were harmless. He was pretty much perfect once again.
Isa Abdul-Quddus: B- (2.33) Yet another special teams tackle for this him. Every game it makes sense why this guy made the team.
My Defensive Player of the Game: Jabari Greer
My Special Teams Player of the Game: Thomas Morstead