The defense in this game seemed to get better as the game progressed, granted there was nowhere to go but up. They gave up huge chunks of yardage between the 20's, but the red zone defense was good enough to keep the game within striking distance.
At some point the Saints need to address the liabilities they have covering backs and tight ends. The linebackers and safeties on this squad (Jenkins excluded) just don't do a good job in coverage, and when the defense plays bad that's what we're seeing: either Harper or a linebacker getting victimized with a big passing play. The Saints need to get better in that department above all if they want to go far.
In the end, the defense did what was needed to win the game. Lucky for them the offense was able to put up 40 points, because anything less than that could have yielded a negative result. Make the jump for the grades!Will Smith: B+ (3.33) It was a welcomed return for Smith and overall I thought he was excellent. He was very solid against the run, he tipped a pass, and he did a decent job on pass rushing situations, knocking Matt Schaub down once. While he didn't get a sack and I hope we'll see more of him in the backfield this season, his strength and power in the trenches was sorely missed. He finished with 6 tackles including one for a loss when he shot the gap and blew up Ben Tate. He did a good job helping his team with second level tackling in pursuit, too.
Turk McBride: C (2.44) Give the guy credit, he finds his way to the quarterback. He got a sack that was a function of coverage entirely. Other than that, he was a non factor and he didn't offer much run support. Even on his sack he was fortunate as he didn't really do much to create it.
Cameron Jordan: C+ (2.22) Overall I was impressed with Jordan's effort and strength. He doesn't get knocked off the ball and he's a stout run defender. He finished with 3 tackles and I think the Smith-Jordan tandem is a good one on running downs. He didn't have much success getting to Schaub but it wasn't for lack of trying. I docked his grade a bit for jumping offsides.
Junior Galette: C- (2.44) The pass rushing specialist finished with 1 tackle and was neutralized every time he was in the game. He seemed light in the pads and got pushed around. He wasn't able to beat linemen with his speed, and once the Texans got their hands on him he wasn't going anywhere. He's on the field to get in the quarterback's face and he didn't come close to doing it.
Sedrick Ellis: B- (2.22) He missed a couple tackles, but he was fighting hard and getting nice penetration on plays. His first step and quickness was on full display, he just needs to be a little better finishing off plays. He finished with 4 tackles and was pretty good against the run.
Shaun Rogers: B- (1.78) Hey, look who decided to show up! Like Ellis he got some penetration and he was disruptive. He finished with 3 tackles and he didn't get pushed around anywhere near like what I saw in the first two games. By no means am I sold he's going to show us glimpsed of his prime, but this was an improvement.
Aubrayo Franklin: D+ (1.78) I noticed 3 plays where he was completely blocked out of the play or out of position to help his team. He finished with no tackles and didn't bring any help to the interior.
Mitch King: C- (1.89) Despite a decent amount of snaps and a lot of running around, he did nothing and had no tackles. He also got pushed around the trenches.
Jonathan Casillas: C- (2.33) He's improved a bit in coverage. I'll give him that. Schaub was eyeing his matchup with James Casey. One play yielded on a 26 yard touchdown pass, but hard to fault Casillas there as the coverage was perfect. Later in the game they went back to that same exact play and he batted the ball away. Casillas came very close to a pair of interceptions but his bricks for hands got in the way. He was unlucky enough to give Kevin Walter the assist on that freak touchdown, as his INT drop hit his hands, then Greer, then Walter. Schaub knew he was spotty in coverage and he went after Casillas with success. That said, it was more unlucky on Casillas' part than anything else. His run defense wasn't as good as usual, though, and his blitzing didn't yield anything. He finished with 1 tackle.
Martez Wilson: B (3.00) It's too bad he got hurt because he was off to a monster start. After making a nice play inside the 15 on kickoff coverage - making a big tackle, he then put good pressure on Schaub to force an incompletion, then he notched another tackle. Then, he hurt himself and never came back. I hope to see him on the field again soon.
Jo-Lonn Dunbar: B (3.34) I may get crucified for saying this, but right now I kind of prefer Dunbar over Vilma as the Saints' middle linebacker right now. I know Vilma is a leader and he offers experience and intangibles that can't be measured, fair enough, but based solely on performance I think Dunbar is playing better. That's not saying much, either. In the end Saints are clearly best off if Vilma starts playing like the old Vilma. Right now, though, he's not doing that. What Dunbar is poor at is coverage. This much is clear. What I like about Dunbar is he brings a very physical presence over the middle of the field that the Saints just don't have without him. The guy is a thumper, and besides Harper the Saints don't have anyone as physical that lays that kind of wood out there. His run support was once again outstanding and the mean streak he plays with is exciting. In the end, though, he's a big liability in coverage. Part of that's poor play recognition, and part of that is the fact that it's not his strength. That said, Vilma has been poor in coverage so far this year too. If both are going to be bad in that department, wouldn't you rather the guy that at least gets his nose in the piles and throws his weight around the line of scrimmage to finish off the d-lines job? Dunbar sheds blocks much better than Vilma has been the past two weeks. Much better. Just saying... He finished with 10 tackles and did defend 2 passes, but that was mostly because so many passes were coming his way.
Scott Shanle: C- (1.89) He finished with 5 tackles but most of those were assists helping his teammates finish off plays. He looked slow again and got beat routinely in coverage. More often than not he just seemed to be running after the play. He did have a moment of brilliance, though, smacking Steve Slaton in the backfield for a one yard loss after destroying an oncoming block. Shanle is a pretty strong guy.
Jabari Greer: B- (2.67) He was given the unenviable responsibility of running with Andre Johnson and fared poorly for large parts of the game. Johnson makes most corners look stupid and this was no exception. The Texans' receiver finished with 7 catches for 128 yards and it felt a lot worse than that. Then, out of nowhere, it seemed like Greer kind of figured things out. I don't know if he got tipped off to something as the game progressed or what, but he started anticipating Johnson's routes and jumping them. He was able to undercut two throws, one which broke up a long pass downfield, and one which yielded a critical interception. He also did a beautiful job tackling Jacoby Jones in the open field around the line of scrimmage on a screen play. He was flagged for a foul on special teams, and he was beaten a few times. He made a huge play but he also got beat a good amount. A mixed bag.
Patrick Robinson: C- (1.89) He took his turns at covering Johnson too and looked even worse than Greer. Most of the time Robinson made his tackles downfield after big gains. He finished with 4 tackles. I thought his coverage was suspect at best but he didn't make a major mistake.
Leigh Torrence: B+ (3.11) He was pretty darn good in coverage and he came up with a huge sack on a blitz. He also did his thing on special teams. He finished with 3 tackles, 2 pass break ups one of which was a ball intended for Johnson in the end zone, and a sack. He's off to a great start this season.
Malcolm Jenkins: C (2.33) He had a couple of decent hits but his 5 tackles all came after 10+ yard gains. He wasn't making any plays and instead his role was to avoid disaster. I know that's the free safety's role sometimes but I just didn't feel like he lived up to his potential in this game. He also took a couple bad angles that allowed plays to gain more yardage. He still needs to play better.
Roman Harper: C- (1.78) Harper is so frustrating because he does some things well (blitz, play in the box) and some things really bad (wrap up tackling, cover). You never know if you're going to get a huge game from him or a horrible one. This game was definitely closer to the latter. It wasn't quite as disastrous as the Seahawks/Packers performances but he once again showed his limitations in pass defense. He was badly beaten on the first touchdown pass to Owen Daniels. Later, he did do a good job on another end zone toss to Daniels, but the pass was slightly overthrown. He was also flagged once for defense holding and really fortunate it wasn't twice when he absolutely mugged Andre Johnson at the 1 yard line. Otherwise he blitzed some and was helpful against the run. He finished with 7 tackles.
John Kasay: B (3.44) He made a 35 yard attempt and all three extra points. Some of you argue that merits an A, but passing low degree of difficulty with flying colors is not A material in my book. He did his job and his job was a relatively easy one in this game. That said, give Kasay credit for being flawless through 3 games. Garrett Hartley's injury hasn't been a big deal at all thanks to him, so far... (knocks on wood)
Thomas Morstead: A (3.67) A 49.3 yard per punt average gross, and 47.7 net. That is ridiculous. Once again, Morstead stole the show. He also blasted a bunch of kickoffs and did his usual job there. He pinned one punt inside the 20 and had no touchbacks. His current level is Pro Bowl worthy, and he deserves consideration.
Isa Abdul-Quddus: B+ (2.17) He had a beautiful tackle in punt coverage as a gunner on Jacoby Jones. He was one on one with him right after Jones field the ball and he was able to track him down making a beautiful open field tackle. I'm beginning to see why the coaching staff kept this kid around. He finished with 2 tackles.
My Defensive Player of the Game: Will Smith
My Special Teams Player of the Game: Thomas Morstead