Anytime you give up 40 points to anyone, it's safe to assume the defensive grades won't be good. The major concerns after this week are a non-existent pass rush and poor coverage. The really bothersome thing is that while I'm convinced the offensive woes can be cleaned up pretty quickly by eliminating penalties, I'm not sure the defensive problems have a quick fix.
Having Jabari Greer back would certainly help a lot, but the Saints' inability to get to the quarterback without blitzing hasn't changed at all. I've said this several times now, but based on what I'm seeing from this defense, the margin of error for the offense will be incredibly small all season long. Hopefully they can bounce back. Make the jump for the grades.
Cameron Jordan: A- (3.67) Jordan deserves an A+ for his run defense. He was fast sideline to sideline, completely dismissed any "physical" blocking. He led the team with a shocking 11 tackles. He played hard to the whistle and showed impressive hustle. He did have a bad offsides penalty, and his pass rushing was once again limited. His lateral quickness and physicality was impressive, and many of his stops were right at the line of scrimmage. Nice showing.
Will Smith: D+ (1.33) The Redskins' tackle Trent Williams completely dominated Smith. Perhaps his lack of preparation played a part in his struggles, but Smith wasn't good at all. He was mediocre against the run and non existent rushing the passer. The Redskins didn't even double team him hardly at all to keep him in check. He finished with 4 tackles but can play much, much better than this.
Turk McBride: D (1.00) He was constantly blocked out of the play or running after a ball carrier in vain. His pass rushing was probably the worst of the team, and no one was good. He looked gimpy several times, so I have to question how healthy he is. McBride has a bum ankle all of last year it seemed like, and he's already entering this season at less than 100%. What's the point if the guy can barely play? He looked slow and completely ineffective when he was in. It's time to let him heal and throw Martez in there.
Junior Galette: C (2.00) He had limited reps but didn't get the kind of explosiveness off the edge I was hoping for to disrupt Robert Griffin III. He finished with 2 tackles, including one for a loss which was handed to him when a player fell down. He did a nice job on his other tackle of hustling downfield to force Griffin out of bounds short of a first down to force a punt.
Sedrick Ellis: B (3.00) He was very active and involved in bringing down ball carriers. He finished with 7 tackles and was disruptive against the run. That's an incredibly high number of tackles for a DT. He gambled a couple of times and left nice cutback lanes for runners, namely Alfred Morris, and he was blown out of the play on one of the touchdown runs. Still, his overall run defense was promising. As far as the pass rushing, well, it was more of the same. He sucked in that department like every else. That all said, if he played like this every week I'd be satisfied.
Brodrick Bunkley: B- (2.67) You can tell Bunkley is the real deal in the trenches, and a massive upgrade already over Aubrayo Franklin. Of this I am already convinced. He had 4 tackles and often controlled the line of scrimmage. He gave his linebackers every opportunity to finish off numerous plays. In a couple of short yardage situations, the negative is he'd struggle to finish off the play to get the stop, but that was bad luck and I think it will come. I did see major sings of encouragement with how he and the new linebackers will help solve the run defense woes. Pass rush and pass defense are another story.
Tom Johnson: C- (1.67) He had one tackle in extended reps, and like Smith and McBride, he just didn't look 100% or prepared. A lot of running after the play. Granted, the heavy tackle rotation that Gregg Williams used to run is largely out the door as Ellis and Bunkley are now getting the lion share of snaps. He was a liability when in the game.
Curtis Lofton: B (3.00) Lofton ran well sideline to sideline and the ankle issue didn't seem to slow him down much. He did a fantastic job shedding off blockers, finding the ball and tackling physically. This guy really is as advertised. He finished with 9 tackles and I think you can comfortably get used to him having high tackle numbers. If I'm nitpicking he did miss a couple tackles and his coverage was only ok but for a first game you have to be mostly encouraged. He's only going to get better.
Scott Shanle: B+ (3.33) It's really too bad he got hurt because he was playing exceptionally well before the leg injury forced him to leave the game. Hopefully he's back soon because I feel like Shanle has somehow raised his game yet another level. He finished with 4 tackles including one for a big loss in pretty limited playing time, and looked good on special teams and coverage as well. Hopefully the Saints get him back soon, historically he's been a very durable player for the team.
David Hawthorne: C- (1.67) Just back from his knee surgery, he also looked gimpy and not 100% out there. While the Saints opted to keep Jabari Greer out of this game, there were a number of other players I've mentioned (McBride, Marques Colston, Will Smith due to lack of practice, Joe Morgan and Johnson) that looked out of synch and probably should have been held out. Hawthorne was one of those. The Redskins ran numerous wide receiver screens and he just looked incredibly slow moving sideline to sideline to get to those plays. On one 4th and 1 running play he was completely blocked and dominated out of the play. His coverage was also victimized often as he had trouble running with anyone he covered. Not a good day for Hawthorne, who I firmly believe should have been held out of this one. He just wasn't ready physically. He did finish with 5 tackles and show some nice physicality, but I'm probably being generous with his grade. He was not good.
Will Herring: B- (2.67) Herring did ok in run support holding his own once Shanle left even though that's clearly his weakness. His pass coverage, which his strength, looked fine too. He also gets a little boost for making a beautiful open field tackle on special teams on Brandon Banks and forcing a fumble. He had 5 tackles.
Jonathan Casillas: C (2.00) Casillas came in mostly on pass sub packages, and he did an ok job. He didn't make any glaring mistakes or big plays, content with treading water in the new scheme. That's not a bad thing, as Casillas has been known for taking big risks in the past and being a feast of famine type of player from snap to snap. I did appreciate the steadiness, and he finished with 1 tackle in somewhat limited reps.
Patrick Robinson: D- (0.67) Not running off the field fast enough on 4th and 5 was by far the most criminal penalty of the game. His lack of awareness in that situation was the most frustrating part of the entire game for me. Robinson was beaten consistently by the accuracy of RG3 and he took some gambles jumping routes that backfired a few times. His coverage was poor, and he wasn't able to come up with an interception that could have helped the Saints stage a comeback. He did finish with a sack on a blitz which saves him from an F. In fact, I noticed that Spagnuolo sent Robinson blitzing a number of times. I also give him a little credit for running down Garcon on that TD and making a nice diving tackle effort that didn't work out.
Corey White: D+ (1.33) The rookie from Samford got a start to begin his career and it was largely a flop. He did get off to a good start by making a beautiful run up and stuff, losing a blocker, on a wide receiver screen. It was all downhill from there. White was beaten a number of times, most notably on the 88 yard touchdown to Pierre Garcon where he allowed way too much separation, and a slant route to Aldrick Robinson for another touchdown. Not that this isn't defensible, but White also lost receivers downfield when the Saints' pass rush took too long to get to RGIII and the play would get extended further by RGIII's legs. He had 5 tackles, played physical, and the effort was definitely there... but ultimately he hurt his team a lot more than he helped it.
Johnny Patrick: B- (2.67) It's too bad he got hurt, too, because he looked pretty good in limited reps. He had two tackles, one of which was a beautiful open field stop, and he broke up a pass in the end zone by jumping a route and almost came up with an interception.
Jerome Murphy: C+ (2.33) He was thrown into the fire after Patrick's injury and played extensively, without really getting targeted much or thrown to. He finished with 2 tackles and had a quiet afternoon, looking decent out there. I wouldn't be surprised if he moves ahead of White and Patrick soon on the depth chart.
Malcolm Jenkins: C (2.00) Jenkins was a mixed bag. He did a good job of finishing off plays that had a risk of turning big at times and he did have some real punishing blows over the middle that put a hurt on Redskins players. Jenkins did take band angles on other plays though, and missed his fair share of tackles. His coverage was ok and he didn't play as bad of a game as I initially thought. He did come up with a nice hit on a blitz on RGIII on the 88 yarder to Garcon, too bad he got there a split second late.
Roman Harper: C (2.00) It's hard to really blast Harper for what was the biggest play of the game. On 4th and 1, he runs downfield and has what I estimate is good coverage. He turns around, locates the football, and bats the ball away. Yes, there was some contact, but the pass interference flag was harsh and ultimately it was a back breaker to the Saints' chances. I'm certainly not giving Harper a good grade, but I'm not going to dock him much either because I felt he made a good play. He finished with 9 tackles and was heavily involved in many stops and made some good plays, including a goal line screen stop around the line of scrimmage against Roy Helu. He was blocked trying to get to Garcon on the 88 yard touchdown. Hard to blame him again there, but he was overly aggressive to get there and once he whiffed it was all over.
Garrett Hartley: B+ (3.33) I'm not giving him a better grade than this when he barely had anything to do, but he was perfect in limited work. He was perfect on all three extra points and a chip shot 21 yarder which he put right down the middle.
Thomas Morstead: B+ (3.33) He gave a very dangerous returner in Banks some opportunities to hurt the Saints and I didn't like that he wasn't more careful. No harm, no foul, though. He boomed the ball all game long and got his usual touchbacks on kickoffs. He averaged 55.6 yards per punt (!!) and 48.8 net. So while 4 of his 5 punts were returned by an explosive playmaker, the net result was very positive.
Courtney Roby: A+ (4.33) Outstanding effort from Roby on special teams, and he earns the first A+ of the season. He got a tackle for no gain on a punt return (falling on a fumbler in Banks), he downed a couple punts, and he came up with a scoop and score on the blocked punt. That touchdown was huge and could have changed the game in favor of the Saints. He was almost always the first man down as a gunner. The Saints are lucky to have him on special teams.
Martez Wilson: A (4.00) He didn't play much other than that blocked punt which created a touchdown, but that play alone is worthy of an A. Massive.
My Defensive Player of the Game: Cam Jordan
My Special Teams Player of the Game: Courtney Roby