Making the Grade: Saints Defensive and Special Teams Player Grades @ Packers

I can tolerate a defense getting flat out beat when they play a superior opponent, and that was definitely part of the problem in this game. But I cannot tolerate poor technique and lack of poise. Those things were entirely too prevalent in the Saints' defensive "effort" against the Packers, and I use the term "effort" very loosely.

Prepare yourself, the grades are bad. The bottom line is the tackling by the Saints was an abomination across the board. No one wanted to wrap and tackle, instead concerned with just putting a candy hit on Packer ball carriers. No expletive can do that performance justice.

The defensive line got no pressure and they were repeatedly pushed way off the ball. The defensive backs were routinely toasted in man coverage and slow to the ball in zone. The linebackers weren't as bad at tackling as they were slow to the football and completely absorbed with blocks, unable to shed anything. The secondary put together probably one of the most atrocious tackling efforts I've ever seen. There was everything in this game: poor tackling, broken assignments, broken coverage, poor coverage, terrible angles, slipping, and even the very few times in this game the Saints were in the right place, they still got beat.

Performances really don't get much worse than this one in the NFL. It was an embarrassment. The Packers make people look like that, no doubt, but to call that performance by the Saints defense anything less than incredibly alarming is just naive. And I don't think any of us are stupid enough to believe Will Smith's addition after Week 2 is going to make a lick of difference.

One player missing isn't the problem, the problem is a team-wide inability to tackle or shed blocks. To me, that's just playing with a higher sense of urgency, effort and composure. I do believe those things can be fixed internally without outside help, but it also doesn't get fixed overnight. I reluctantly give you grades that aren't pretty in the least.

Saints vs Packers coverage

Saints vs Packers recap

Saints vs Packers boxscore

 

Jeff Charleston: C+ (2.33) He finished with 3 tackles and he wasn't awful. His pursuit was good and he tried his best. I just don't think he's starting quality, but he's able to come in and give the Saints effort. He seems to have added some weight so he looks stronger, but he was just slow to the play too many times.

Junior Galette: C+ (2.33) He finished with 3 tackles and half a sack. He tackled Rodgers for a loss on a busted play which was a gimme, and he helped finish off a sack that was initiated by Harper. Other than those two positive plays, neither of which he really did much to inherit, he was largely stonewalled and not much for a factor off the edge.

Turk McBride: C+ (2.33) To me he was the most promising defensive end on the night. He finished with just 1 tackle so statistically he didn't do much, but he received numerous double teams so clearly the Packers we worried about him. He did a decent job of getting pressure and he was really the only one. Rodgers' release is just too quick, though, and McBride was always a step late. He held his ground best of the d-line against the run too. While he didn't have an amazing game I did leave with some hope that this guy could turn out to be a pretty good player for the Saints.

Cameron Jordan: C- (1.67) He finished with 3 tackles but he was pushed off the ball quite a bit and got no pressure whatsoever on the quarterback. He did not look like a 1st round pick to me.

Sedrick Ellis: D+ (1.33) One of the worst games I've ever seen Ellis play. He finished with 2 tackles and was completely manhandled in the trenches. He looked slow, weak and disoriented out there. I know he'll rebound because we've all seen this guy play at a high level but he just didn't have it.

Aubrayo Franklin: C- (1.67) At times you can tell why he's so highly praised as a premiere run defender. He definitely absorbed contact well and got a little penetration at times. That said, he was double teamed a good amount and I saw him get knocked clear on his butt at least two times which created a huge running lane. Maybe he's not 100% yet but I hope the Saints can get more out of him than that.

Shaun Rogers: D- (0.67) This guy was supposed to be a mammoth run stopper. I'm glad he looks the part, but so far that's it. He was a ghost out there. He made absolutely no impact whatsoever. The short yardage situations he came in, his supposed specialty, the Packers ran right at him and had their way with him. He never helped the Saints stop the Packers in short yardage situations, not even close. He was terrible and invisible in this. Finished with one tackle.

Mitch King: D+ (1.33) It's weird that he was so good in the preseason and the minute the regular season light came on, his hustle decreased and he was pushed around like a ragdoll. He finished with 1 tackle.

Scott Shanle: C+ (2.33) A mixed bag from the veteran. To me he was most active against the run and he was one of the few players that actually came ready to tackle someone. He made a huge stop behind the line of scrimmage in the red zone on a 2nd and short, only to turn around and give up a 1st down reception on the very next play by giving way too much cushion to Tom Crabtree who is hardly a receiving threat. He finished with 7 tackles and I thought his pursuit and tackling was decent, but he slipped a few times and he looked a little slow out there. His coverage looked very spotty.

Will Herring: D (1.00) The Saints praised this guy and said he was ready to assume a full time starting role after being more of a spot duty coverage linebacker with the Seahawks. Well, I certainly saw his coverage ability, and it wasn't that good. He did have a couple good coverages on Jermichael Finley, so I'll ease up on him there. Against the run, though, he was useless. Completely useless. The Packers ran right at him several times and he was completely swallowed by any willing blocker. He would often get a passive hand on a runner which did absolutely nothing. He finished with two tackles. I have to say, I'm not impressed with this pickup so far. I miss Danny Clark.

Jonathan Vilma: C (2.00) As the game wore on he found his bearings and got better. He finished strong and ended with 7 tackles once the Packers tried to milk their lead and become one dimensional with the run. Before that happened, though, he was out of place and victimized often. He was well on his way to a D or worse until the 4th quarter, where he redeemed himself with good tackling and physical play. Prior to that, he looked slow, and like Herring he couldn't shed any blocks. The Packers' blockers did a good job of finding him, getting a hat on him, and completely erasing him from the play. His coverage was not good.

Jonathan Casillas: C+ (2.33) He was great on blitzes and not good at anything else. He sacked Aaron Rodgers once and hit him viciously getting there just a step too late. He finished with two tackles. The Saints dropped him in coverage a few times and his awareness was poor. Sometimes in zone you have to break off your assignment when you see a wide open receiver a yard away from you. Instead, he stayed put and gave up a huge gain on a third and long. His ball and play awareness there were not good. He didn't provide the Saints with enough of a physical presence when he was in there, but I would have liked to see him in there against the run more.

Patrick Robinson: D (1.00) He was beaten badly in man to man coverage and the Saints had to move Harper from the box, run more zone, and use traditional shell coverage to make up for the fact that when left out on an island, Robinson was getting abused. On the opening drive he gave up a long pass to Jordy Nelson, slipping, and the touchdown pass to Greg Jennings with little resistance. He finished with 5 tackles and was always a step slow to the ball. His tackling was extremely poor as well.

Tracy Porter: C+ (2.33) He wasn't targeted much, and his coverage was the best of the group. He finished with 5 tackles, most accumulated leaving his assignment to help teammates that couldn't tackle. He did take a horrible angle on one short flare pass and gave the receiver and inside lane, slipping and missing the tackle badly. He wasn't immune to the team wide inability to tackle.

Jabari Greer: D+ (1.33) Rodgers went after him a lot as well with mostly good results. Greer did have good coverage on a couple 3rd down plays which would force a punt, but it's telling that when Rodgers needed a first down he was usually going after Greer. Greer's tackling was absolutely awful. I remember numerous times where the Packers would flare a pass at the line of scrimmage, isolating Greer one on one to make a tackle. He missed almost all of them. It was shameful. Give him credit for one very nice pass breakup. He was also flagged once for a not obvious pass interference call. He had a lot of trouble covering Greg Jennings.

Roman Harper: F (0.00) Documenting all of his screw ups would take way more time that I'm prepared to give. Needless to say, he was absolutely atrocious. His coverage once again was victimized constantly and it was basically a carbon copy repeat of his performance against the Seahawks in the last playoff game. That performance, by the way, earned him an F as well. He did lead the team with 9 tackles and had half a sack, so there's that, but make no mistake he was picked on all game. A very very bad performance throughout the game.

Malcolm Jenkins: C (2.00) I gave his grade a boost for that monstrosity of a hit on Donald Driver. Seriously, how did Driver get up from that? Jenkins completely obliterated him. WOW. I still can't get over that shot, it was quite impressive. Jenkins ended with 5 tackles and had a couple of good plays, but again, his game was defined by taking bad angles and missing tackles. The biggest runs the Packers had were extended by Jenkins' inability to put an end to them. He's the last line of defense and there was way too much diving at people's ankles.

 

John Kasay: B+ (3.33) I'm not going to give him a better grade than that for converting on two field goals inside 40 yards, but give him credit, after scaring us to death in the preseason he did what was asked of him well. He made all four extra points, both short field goals, and hit an onsides kick decently that didn't work out.

Thomas Morstead: B- (2.67) He averaged 49 yards on two punts (only 36.5 net) and had one go for a touchback. On his kickoffs, he blasted them deep in the end zone almost every time. Unfortunately for him, Randall Cobb took one out from 8 yards deep and well, yeah, you know what happened.

Courtney Roby: B (3.00) While he was relieved of his return duties, he still made the most of his time on the field. Give him credit for a monster block that sprung Darren Sproles on his punt return for a touchdown. That was a thing of beauty. He was also one of the first men down on almost every single coverage unit exercise.

Isa Abdul-Quddus: D (1.00) Two big mistakes by Abdul-Quddus in this one. First, on Morstead's touchback punt, he showed very poor ball awareness and was unable to locate the ball to maybe pin the Packers inside the 5. Also on a punt which would end up luckily being called back for a hold, he had a chance to make a one on one tackle with Randall Cobb and he completely blew it. Yet more evidence of poor tackling. He looked lost out there on special teams.

Leigh Torrence: C (2.00) The touchdown wasn't hit fault and he did have a tackle on special teams. It's good to see him out there as a veteran that knows how to play special teams, especially with Pierson Prioleau and Chris Reis both gone. Hopefully he can help young guys like Abdul-Quddus in a hurry.

 

Note: I already graded Darren Sproles out at an A in the offensive grades, which included his special teams reps, so that's why he's not listed here.

 

My Defensive Player of the Game: Scott Shanle (had to pick someone!)

My Special Teams Player of the Game: Darren Sproles

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