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Quarterpole Grades: Secondary

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Any discussion of the 2000 Rams must include this guy. Also, "Thank you Jesuuuuuuuus!" Source: TrophyCountry.com

With the season in its fourth week and with the natural lull due to the bye-week, I thought it would be a good idea to take a step back and run some quarterpole grades. As always, your comments are welcomed.

Let's re-visit the statistical comparison to the 2000 St. Louis Rams, first made by the Football Outsiders. There were two parts of the comparison, one involving an elite offense and the other a horrendous defense. Unfortunately, only half of this prediction seems accurate.

For a refresher, here is what the Outsiders wrote on page 225 of Pro Football Prospectus 2007:

The 2007 prognosis for the Saints looks very similar to another recent year-after-miracle team, the 2000 St. Louis Rams. The 2000 Rams had the fourth-highest offensive DVOA ever ... but went 10-6 because their defense disintegrated, falling from 3rd to 26th.

I won't touch the offensive comparison, since there really is none to be made. The Saints' offense has been truly awful, largely because the offensive line couldn't block a paraplegic.

So let's focus on the defense.

1999-2000 Rams v. 2006-2007 Saints Defense
YPG Pass YPG Rush YPG TDs/Game
2006 Saints 324.1 195.1 128.9 2.3
2007 Saints 355.3 239 116.3 3.7
1999 Rams 316 241.7 74.3 1.4
2000 Rams 388.3 267.7 120.7 3.33

The numbers for the 2000 Rams and the 2007 Saints are calculated through 3 games, using boxscores from this fine site.

In the defensive secondary, the Saints have regressed, there's no quesiton about it. The obvious observation here is that the 40-yard and 1.4-touchdown increases are the result of the one big play that Jason David allows each game [rimshot]. Though it's probably not that simple, it is certainly interesting.

Last season the Saints allowed 372 receptions for 4626 yards, both league-highs. Logically, this makes sense, since the Saints were leading most games and teams were forced to throw to catch-up. But the Saints also allowed 12.4 yards per catch, which ranked 28th. This season the Saints rank 32nd, last in the league, allowing 15.6 yards per catch.

But as bad as the Saints were in their first three, the 2000 Rams were worse defensively. The Rams were starting from a worse position and saw a smaller jump in yardage, but the number of touchdowns that they allowed per game increased by 2.5X. Their per-game average of 267.7 yards was simply atrocious. When the Rams re-vamped their defense before the 2001 season (they finished 3rd in yardage in 2001), one of their main areas of improvement was at corner, where Dre' Bly had assumed a starting spot late in 2000 and played at a Pro Bowl level in 2001.

The Saints have a similarly-talented player in Usama Young. With Jason David's injury, the Saints have the option of working between Fred Thomas and Young. While they will undoubtedly use a rotation between the two, Thomas represents the known commodity, the ineffective veteran who nearly played his way off the team. The Saints should get a good feel for Young's in-game strengths and weaknesses over the next few weeks. Perhaps it's not the worst idea to allow the rookie to begin his development, just as Jahri Evans and Marques Colston did last season.

Full disclosure: I gave the defensive secondary a D.