Saints vs. Buccaneers 2013 Player Grades: Defense and Special Teams

Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports

If you told me before the game the Saints would give up 144 yards rushing to Doug Martin, at 5.0 yards per clip, and that they'd score 16 points I wouldn't have even bothered watching the game. But that wouldn't have been factoring in the monster performance by the defense. It was weird, they didn't stop that run that well, they didn't rush the passer that well and they didn't always cover that well. So how did they keep Tampa in check? My theory is Tampa largely kept themselves in check, but I will take it. Here are the grades.

Cameron Jordan: B+ (2.83) He played the run very well per usual. He was equally good disrupting things in the backfield as he was getting in pursuit once the play got behind him. He finished with 5 tackles and a sack/strip that gave the defense a massive turnover. That sack was more thanks to coverage, though, and he wasn't stellar rushing the passer otherwise, often neutralized off the edge.

Akiem Hicks: C+ (2.67) He established himself as physical, stout and quick early before fading down the stretch. I attribute that to him being thrust in the starter's role, without much depth due to injuries, and playing more than he really should be playing at this point in his development. His conditioning probably needs a little work. At times he played the run beautifully and at others he was turned around and pushed away from the point of attack. He did completely stuff Martin twice, but he needs to get better rushing the passer than he was in this game.

Jay Richardson: C- (1.67) He got some snaps but mostly looked lost and chasing the play when he was in. The blocking seemed to take care of him easily.

John Jenkins: C+ (2.83) Like Hicks, he was good early and as he saw more snaps he started to fade. I noticed him really struggle with double teams, too. He did have three tackle and got into the mix nicely on a few stops. An up and down day for the rookie who's probably playing more than Rob Ryan wants him to at this point.

Junior Galette: B- (2.84) He didn't do much rushing the passer but he helped against the run and even covered a little bit (!). His big play was the fumble recovery on the strip by Jordan where he was able to return it 10 yards. He needs to do better in the pass rushing department but I have no doubt he will.

Martez Wilson: C+ (2.33) Strangely he was quite good against the run and shut down rushing the passer. It was like bizarro world out there for Wilson in this game. He also downed a punt inside the 5. Overall, considering he's just getting back from injury it was not bad at all.

Parys Haralson: B- (3.00) He shot the gap on his lone tackle and blew up Martin for a nice 3 yard loss. Other than that he didn't play much, probably because the Bucs were in nickel so much. Nice play though!

Will Herring: C- (2.50) He mugged the fullback on a screen pass and was flagged for holding. He coupled that with one tackle. Played some on defense and did ok in coverage mostly.

Curtis Lofton: B (3.00) Tied for the team lead with 7 tackles, he was never exposed in passing situation and did a good job finding the ball. He did shoot the wrong gap at times which led to big runs, and he missed a couple tackles which led to others, so he was at fault on a few of the big scampers, but he was also involved in almost every defensive stop around the line of scrimmage that happened.

David Hawthorne: B+ (3.17) He had 7 tackles as well and was terrific against the run. Like Lofton he was involved in the majority of the plays around the line of scrimmage and did a terrific job helping his teammates finish plays. So far the Lofton/Hawthorne tandem through two games has been the shining light of this defense.

Keenan Lewis: C+ (2.33) I thought he did ok, but he was beaten a few times and bailed out others with drops and penalties. He had poor coverage on a 3rd down play on Vincent Jackson and was fortunate the Saints got off the field there. He did have a nice open field tackle on Mike Williams at one point on a third down to get the Saints off the field. Josh Freeman often stayed away from him because his coverage was decent or he didn't like the matchup. He did lose Ogletree on the touchdown pass.

Jabari Greer: B (2.50) Greer did a good job. He was targeted on a deep ball and a fade and came up with breakups on those two in particular. He also had a good open field tackle on Doug Martin. He finished with 5 tackles and 2 defended passes. He was beat a couple times, most significantly when he allowed tight end Nate Byham to get behind him following a scramble. But his coverage was largely good and he also contested plays coming his way.

Patrick Robinson: C+ (2.33) No tackles, but he covered well in the slot in limited reps before his knee buckled. I don't expect to see him again this season, sadly.

Kenny Vaccaro: C+ (2.67) After getting the Tony Gonzalez responsibility in week 1, he was largely responsible for Vincent Jackson in this one. It seems Vaccaro gets the assignment of the biggest mismatch receiver each week. I think we should expect to see him getting a heavy dosage of Larry Fitzgerald next week, then. He competed well and came up with a couple of huge hits again. On a short swing pass to Jackson, Vaccaro blew him up before the ball was thrown and there was no flag because it was inside 5 yards which was awesome. He also blew up a gunner on special teams. He was victimized for very poor jump ball skills against Jackson on a deep touchdown throw, but that was called back thanks to a penalty. He was bailed out there, big time. He had 5 tackles and did pretty well on Jackson. Too many of his tackles came way downfield though.

Roman Harper: B- (3.17) He was mostly around the line of scrimmage and didn't cover too much. Rob Ryan is doing a good job of putting him where he can help and playing to his strengths. He finished with 6 tackles. He made a couple plays around the line of scrimmage but was also manhandled a couple of times.

Malcolm Jenkins: B+ (3.17) He had two tackles, one of which was a big one short of the 1st down on a 3rd down play. He also jumped a deep ball to Jackson for a beautiful pick reminiscent of the Darren Sharper plays. He was able to return the INT 31 yards and almost went the distance with it but get flushed near the sideline and tried to cut back in. That was a big time play.

***

Garrett Hartley: B+ (3.67) He makes the chip shot game winner from 27 yards at the buzzer. He's expected to make that but still nice to see him come through. He also nailed 41 and 44 yarders in a very tricky wind, but wasn't able to connect on a 43 yarder. He's looked good so far this year in my opinion.

Thomas Morstead: A (4.00) Back to back A's for Morstead, showing once again why he's the best in the business. Three of his four kickoffs went for touchbacks despite the conditions, and he punted four times for an average of 43.8 yards. Those 4 punts combined for zero return yards and were all pinned inside the 20, including two inside the 6. Another masterful performance. He's a big part of why the defense was set up to play so well.

Rafael Bush: C+ (2.33) He played a little on defense in coverage and was quiet but did ok. He also had a tackle on the lone kickoff that was returned around the 30 and if he doesn't make that play it may have been off to the races.

Corey White: B (2.84) He caught a punt at the four from the air to down the Bucs deep in their own territory. He did a good job getting downfield, avoiding/losing his blocker Russell Shephard and locating the football. Vintage Courtney Roby right there.

Kevin Reddick: B- (2.67) Deserves kudos for a beautiful open field tackle in coverage.

***

My Defensive Player of the Game: Cam Jordan

My Special Teams Player of the Game: Thomas Morstead

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