Making the Grade: Saints Offensive Player Grades @ Packers

GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 8: Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints runs during the game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on September 8, 2011 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Saints defeated the Packers 42-34. (Photo by Scott Boehm/Getty Images)

When you look back on this game it's hard to blame the offense for this loss. Yes, you can look back and criticize two plays that had a critical impact on the game. Whether they were poor play calls or poor execution, the 4th and half a yard play and the last play of the game were the two things that stick out. Had they turned out better the outcome of the game could have been different.

Make no mistake though, the Saints put up 34 points on the road against an extremely good defense despite the fact that they were turned one dimensional because they were playing from behind the entire game. The two-minute drill at the end of the game was run flawlessly and you have to give huge kudos to Brees for putting his team in a position to possibly tie the game. The fact that they even got in that position was a miracle.

I present you our very first grades of the season, hope you enjoy. Remember, the letter grade represents the player's performance for that game, whereas the GPA behind it represents the cumulative effort for the season. For now, the GPAs will match the letter grade because this was the first game, but that will change as the season progresses. As always, your comments are encouraged and appreciated.

Saints vs Packers coverage

Saints vs Packers recap

Saints vs Packers boxscore

Drew Brees: A+ (4.33) I can nit pick and find some decision Brees made that I didn't love, but overall he played a fantastic game. Despite getting rocked numerous times after he got rid of the ball, Brees continually put on a clinic out there. There were two plays where I would have liked to see the ball come out and he didn't let it rip. Instead, on those two plays, he ended up getting sacked once and throwing the ball away on the 4th down play.  Those were negative plays that hurt the outcome. Still, how can you possibly blame Brees for this loss? He was 32 of 49 for 419 yards, and 3 touchdowns. No turnovers, too. And if the run game bails him out on that last play, is there any question in your mind he comes back and gets the two point conversion? I don't really think he could have played much better, though he was fortunate on a few poor throws that could have been intercepted. Still, he really did play a magnificent game and it was great to see him rebound from a "down year" last season.

Mark Ingram: C (2.00) It's really too bad he got stuffed on the last play of the game for no gain because overall I saw some good things from him. He ran hard to the hole and showed some good things out there. He had more than double any other Saints' rusher in terms of carries and finished with 13 carries for 40 yards. While a 3.1 yard average won't blow anyone's mind he showed some physical running and potential out there.

Pierre Thomas: B+ (3.33) This was classic Pierre Thomas. He finished off runs the way he always does and he was incredibly slippery and hard to tackle. Arm tackles were not bringing him down. He finished with 5 carries for 31 yards and 4 catches for 37 yards. He really made the most of his touches and I hope to see the ball in his hands more next week. Maybe the Saints are slowly working him back into the groove with his still fragile ankle.

Darren Sproles: A (4.00) I probably give him an A+ if it wasn't for his poor pass blocking. He whiffed badly on a blitz that got Brees sacked and drilled pretty hard. Outside of that, he was explosive, quick, terrific in open space, and everything we all hoped Reggie Bush could be consistently. If this guy can duplicate a performance like this one with any sort of consistency, this offense looks terrifying to anyone. He had just 2 carries for 7 yards, but did most of his damage catching the ball and on special teams. He had a whooping 7 catches for 75 yards (!!) including a big time 36 yarder early in the game on a 3rd down conversion to bring the Saints team to life. He also ripped off a 57 yard kickoff return, a 20 yard punt return, and a 72 yard return he brought to the house. This guy had a special game and the Saints are lucky to have him.  I already take him over Bush any day after seeing one game. 

Jed Collins: C (2.00) He alternated the very good and the not so good. I did see him destroy Charles Woodson on a corner blitz off the edge once which was awesome to see. He did have some nice collisions at the point of attack to open up lanes for Ingram mostly. His lead block on the last play of the game was terrible, though. I think he missed short yardage blocks that could have made a difference.

Marques Colston: C- (1.67) He had a couple drops but if you look at his stats he had a respectable effort: 6 catches for 81 yards. The catch he made down the seam on the final drive was an incredible grab reminiscent of vintage Colston. In the end he could never get out of the shadow of that first fumble he made on the Saints' opening drive. That handed the Packers a 14-0 lead right from the get go and the Saints could never come back from it. That fumble was a back breaker and he's got to do a better job of securing the football. That was a bad mistake.

Devery Henderson: A (4.00) I can't really criticize anything he did in this game. Out of nowhere, Henderson turned into a reliable medium range receiver. I will say his speed isn't what it used to be. I saw Charles Woodson and another corner run step for step with him down the sideline. He did get separation thanks to a nice move on his touchdown reception, but overall I just don't see the explosive straight line speed from him anymore. That said, he's made up for that with better hands, strength and route running. The guy has improved all other areas of his game as he's aged. He used to be incredibly fast and not good at anything else, and now he looks like a complete receiver out there with decent speed. I was proud of him and he laid to rest the critics that say he should be cut at least temporarily. He was sure handed and finished with 6 catches for 100 yards even and a touchdown.

Robert Meachem: B+ (3.33) He had an atrocious drop early in the game but came back later on that drive and made a 31 yard touchdown reception that was just an unbelievable catch. He finished with 5 receptions for 70 yards and a touchdown. He went vertical, he made a couple plays underneath, and overall I thought he played a pretty good game. I think there's a couple drops he wishes he had back, though.

Jimmy Graham: B (3.00) He was a little quieter than I'd hoped and the Packers did a great job of containing him. I will say I was overall pretty impressed with his blocking, and he showed great hands. He didn't get very good separation so his route running needs work. He finished with 4 catches for 56 yards and a touchdown late to keep the Saints close. I expect bigger and better things from him as the season progresses.

David Thomas: D+ (1.33) His blocking, which is supposed to be his forte, got eaten alive in this game. The one pass attempt to him was poor timing with Brees and he showed poor awareness of the ball in the air. He didn't contribute much to the offense at all.

Jermon Bushrod: B- (2.67) I've been hearing many people trash his performance, and yes, we can all point out the 3-4 plays where he was victimized, but overall I thought he played a fairly clean game. His protection by and large was solid and he got nice push off the line of scrimmage. No one is into crucifying Bushrod when he plays poorly more than me, trust me, but I thought he held his own out there. He was left out on an island with Strief struggling and he did well for the most part. I'm not going to pretend he was flawless or awesome, he wasn't, but he got the job done.

Carl Nicks: C+ (2.33) There were plays were he was his usual mammoth self out there getting big time push off the line, and there were times he really didn't do well. He had his hands full with B.J. Raji, no doubt about it. That guy is every bit as good as advertised and an absolute beast. I've never seen a guy give Nicks that kind of trouble in the trenches. Still, kudos to Nicks, he battled and did some nice things.

Olin Kreutz: C- (1.67) Am I the only one that thinks this guy seems incredibly light in the pads for an interior lineman? Maybe standing next to Jahri Evans and Carl Nicks dwarfs him unfairly. I just didn't see what all the praise is all about. Maybe the guy is washed up. Twice he was slow to rotate over on simple and basic pass protection schemes and that got Brees in trouble. On running plays he had very little push whatsoever. I'm going to tell you guys right now, the guy I saw out there didn't have the lateral quickness nor the strength of Jonathan Goodwin. I wasn't impressed. Hopefully he turns it around. The Saints did have a ton of snaps out of the shotgun and all his snaps were perfect, so I will give him that.

Jahri Evans: B- (2.67) I'd say he was the best offensive lineman overall on the day for the Saints, but he got distracted too often trying to help Strief. He also got flagged yet again for holding, which is becoming his trademark calling card. I saw the tape on that flag and there was no doubt about it, a blatant hold. He did have a really nice pull on a swing play to Sproles getting over to chip Clay Matthews Jr. which allowed Sproles to make the sidelines and turn the play into a first down. I thought he was solid in pass protection and he gave Brees a clean pocket to step into. He didn't have that initial surge push like Nicks on running plays, though.

Zach Strief: D+ (1.33) He was positively abused by Clay Matthews Jr. on pass rushing downs and it was painful to watch. Luckily Brees got rid of the ball so fast for the most part it wasn't a factor, but that didn't stop Brees from getting lit up like a Christmas tree as he released the ball a few times. Payton, to his credit, picked up on that quick because on the next series I saw Charles Brown, Big Jahri, Pierre Thomas, Jed Collins and Jimmy Graham all taking turns chipping or double teaming to Strief's side. On running plays the Saints couldn't take advantage of his size because he was too slow to his blocks. Hopefully he'll get better matchups as the season progresses.

Charles Brown: B (3.00) He didn't play much but when he came in I thought he was good. I think he maybe deserves a shot to start if Strief has another couple spotty starts. He was the 3rd tight end on blocking downs and he helped Strief out in pass protection a couple time and his size off the edge was a welcomed help.

 

My Offensive Player of the Game: Drew Brees

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