Saints vs. Bills Player Grades: Defense and Special Teams

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sport

The Saints held the Bills to under 20 points in their win on Sunday. Remember, this defense doesn't have to be all-world, they just have to get a couple sacks, force some turnovers, and give the team a chance to win. But they've been doing so much more than that this season and this game was no exception. While it wasn't perfect at all times, it was yet another very strong performance. Most impressive was holding Fred Jackson to 45 yards on 15 carries. On to the grades...

Cameron Jordan: B+ for the game (3.09 for the season) It was actually a quiet game for Jordan on the whole as he was obviously limited due to his ankle injury, but how can you ignore the massive play he makes where he sacks Thad Lewis, forces the ball out, and then completely out-muscles Lewis in the pile to wrestle away the football to get the turnover. Just your garden variety sack, strip, recovery play... good for 3 fantasy points at once if you own the Saints' defense like I do. That was pretty much it for Jordan, but it was big time.

Akiem Hicks: A- (2.67) He had 6 tackles, including two for a loss, and was a beast against the run once again. Fred Jackson had a hard time getting out of his grasp. For the second straight week Hicks has turned in a very high tackle total by holding his ground with impressive power and moving with surprising agility for his size. He also got a little pressure on pass plays. He started fast this season, then really slowed down, and has been red hot again the last two games.

John Jenkins: C+ (2.76) He had one tackle and didn't play as much as usual with Bunkley back. That's a good thing by the way because his workload was a little much. It'll be nice to see him develop now at a more reasonable rate. He was quiet.

Brodrick Bunkley: C+ (2.50) He also had one tackle but seemed to contribute by holding his blocks and getting a little interior push. Nice to have him back in the mix.

Glenn Foster: B- (2.40) He got a sack just a yard behind the line of scrimmage and Lewis slid into it. Otherwise he was neutralized a good bit in pass rushing but did get another hit on the Bills' QB.

Tom Johnson: C- (2.25) Not much contribution from the veteran rotation player. He had 1 tackle and an encroachment penalty.

Parys Haralson: B- (2.62) He had a nice tipped ball to end the Bills' final drive on a screen, showing good awareness. He also had a tackle and a couple hits on Lewis. Pass rushing isn't his forte but he still did it pretty well, laying a huge hit once forcing an errant throw. He had one tackle and played pretty well in spot duty. He had a shot on Fred Jackson's goal line touchdown carry to make a play but was too slow to the ball.

Junior Galette: A- (3.05) It's a good sign when the opposing offensive line is slowing him down by either double teaming him (one time he tried a spin move right into the double team and got lit up) or blatantly holding him. The hold in particular was big because it negated a long touchdown pass. Too bad that flag didn't come against the Patriots too. He wasn't great when he was put out on an island in coverage but other than that a pretty great game by Galette. He played the run very well, had 6 tackles and had a vicious sack on Lewis which knocked the ball loose. He also recovered the fumble on the first play of the game and returned it 3 yards. He's really putting together a big season.

Keyunta Dawson: C (2.00) The Saints didn't get much from him when he was in, but worth noting he had a couple of knock down hits after the pass was released. Unfortunately he was also stonewalled quite a bit too.

Curtis Lofton: B (3.14) A standard performance by Lofton. He tackled really well, except the couple times he didn't, he was beaten in coverage at times, but he found the ball and continues to do the heavy lifting for this surging defense. He was very good against the run.

David Hawthorne: A (3.09) WHAT A GAME by Hawthorne, and what a season he is having. A complete transformation from the guy we saw last year. Perhaps most shocking when you consider that Lofton and Vilma were the ILBs taking snaps as starters in camp, and Ramon Humber was frequently the first guy spelling them (not Hawthorne). This guy couldn't be a more steady and secure starter at this point. He was all over the field and playing like a beast. He had 8 tackles, tied with Lofton for the team lead, a sack on a blitz,and a monster hit on Lewis on the first play to force a fumble/turnover. He played the run well, was pretty good in coverage and blitzed too. A complete game. Lofton and Hawthorne have been a remarkable tandem this season.

Keenan Lewis: B+ (2.90) The best cover man for the Saints on the day, in particular looking very good on the deep balls. He did allow some completions underneath but was physical attacking the ball carrier in front of him. He had 2 tackles and an interception returned 12 yards. He seemed to get hurt on the return but came back in the game. He's been a worthwhile investment so far. He seems to get better each week.

Jabari Greer: B- (2.33) He had 3 tackles and 2 defended passes. He came very close on the last two drives to coming up with an interception. You felt he would get one before the game ended but it didn't work out. He was very fortunate a holding call wiped out a long ball that he misjudged and mistimed horribly. He still seems a bit shaky this season.

Corey White: D+ (2.43) He was flagged twice for roughing the passer on the same touchdown drive, both coming on third down plays where the ball fell incomplete. Not exactly how you help get your team off the field. The first one was a bogus call where Thad Lewis lowered his own helmet into the tackle, but the second was a correct application of the rule. White needs to be smarter than that. On special teams, he had a nice forced fumble on Leodis McKelvin but he also had an opportunity to field a punt inside the 5 and completely blew it. He also had a nice physical tackle on a screen pass to Stevie Johnson behind the line of scrimmage. His coverage was good, so it was a mixed bag, but the mistakes can't happen and they outweighed some positives.

Chris Carr: B- (2.27) His only play was a break up in the end zone on a pass to Scott Chandler where the ball was juggled and he did a great job staying with the play and finishing it to force the incompletion. Otherwise Lewis never really went after him.

Malcolm Jenkins: C (2.81) He had some physical hits but didn't make as much of a dramatic impact on this game as he has lately. He would leave with a leg injury late in the first half. He had 5 tackles but took a poor angle on the touchdown pass to Johnson.

Kenny Vaccaro: C+ (2.48) He was faked out of his pants at the line of scrimmage by Stevie Johnson, who then left him in the dust on the touchdown pass. Otherwise, he was physical and good against the run. His coverage was up and down. He took a monster hit to the head, accidentally, by his teammate Keenan Lewis. Hopefully he's ok but he made a point to show the crowd demonstratively that he was fine. He had 4 tackles including two for a loss. Like Roman Harper he's best around the line of scrimmage. He's got more versatility, though. This guy is only going to get better.

Rafael Bush: C (2.43) Quiet day, just two tackles as he played the back end without too much duty.

Isa Abdul-Quddus: C (2.55) He had a couple tackles on deep throws to Marquise Goodwin late. He got to play more with Jenkins out and was physical, but like Bush there was little impact.

***

Garrett Hartley: D- (2.95) I don't fail him because he was 5 for 5 on extra points and drew a running into the kicker flag by selling the contact. He hit the upright on a 47 yarder and missed a 38 yarder by half a yard too. 0-2 on field goals is really bad, but at least they were both close. He's been good enough this season that he deserves a little rope, but he better snap out of this bad spell fast.

Thomas Morstead: B+ (3.67) He had 4 punts for a 46.8 yard average, 40.75 net. Pretty solid. Two were inside the 20 and one was a touchback, but that was Corey White's fault. His kickoffs were all touchbacks including a couple through the uprights. No one has a shot of catching him for the best GPA on the team.

***

My Defensive Player of the Game: David Hawthorne

My Special Teams Player of the Game: Thomas Morstead

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