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Saints Grades vs. Panthers: Defense & Special Teams

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This defense is just completely lost right now and can't do anything well. More than anything, it's really bad at rushing the passer, which condemns many other areas. The performance of the front four, particularly in passing situations, has been criminal. In fact, the defense has been so woeful I'm surprised some of these guys have yet to be arrested.

Seriously though, Steve Spagnuolo's scheme (or maybe the players in it) has been a colossal failure up to this point. There is nowhere to go but up. Make the jump for the grades, if you must.

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Will Smith: C (1.67) I'm wondering if Smith is washed up at this point in his career. Once again he was completely stonewalled at the line of scrimmage. Granted Trent Williams and Jordan Gross are both good left tackles, but Smith has largely been manhandled so far. He did finish with 7 tackles, and showed good effort in pursuit, but most of his tackles were well past the line of scrimmage. In passing situations he was no threat to Cam Newton whatsoever. He does deserve credit for getting good leverage on the 4th and inches near the goal line that helped stop the play.

Cam Jordan: C (2.84) Like Smith, his pass rushing was not a factor. He did have a sack, but that came after good coverage forced Cam Newton to scramble after having ample time in the pocket. He had 4 tackles and made a couple plays against the run.

Junior Galette: D+ (1.67) He had one tackle and got none of the edge pressure we were promised. He was a complete liability in running situations. The Panthers went right at him a few times and he was blocked out of the play entirely.

Brodrick Bunkley: D+ (2.00) The run stuffer by trade did a very poor job of controlling the line of scrimmage. He seemed to struggled with the misdirection and shotgun formation runs the Panthers ran. He had two tackles and while I thought he looked pretty good last week this was a lot more akin to what we saw from Aubrayo Franklin a year ago. No thanks.

Sedrick Ellis: C- (2.34) He had three tackles but like Bunkley he was pushed around way too often. He wasn't a factor against the run and most disappointing was how useless he is rushing the passer. What happened to how explosive he was on the interior in his first three seasons?

Akiem Hicks: B- (2.67) He didn't play much but he got some opportunities in short yardage/goal line packages. I liked what I saw from him. He was physical and got good pressure up on the middle. Finished with 1 tackle and put a nice lick on Cam Newton.

Jonathan Casillas: B- (2.34) He was ok. He did have five tackles including one for a loss, and he was victim to one of the most blatant holding penalties I have ever seen (the refs managed to catch that one). He was also not good in coverage and only ok at play recognition. He did come up with a huge fumble recovery during a 4th and inches stop which at the time was a huge play.

Scott Shanle: C- (2.50) He didn't play much, but long enough to be bad against the run and even worse against the pass. He was beaten badly by Greg Olsen once and came out fairly often as he was probably not anywhere near 100% physically. He had 1 tackle.

David Hawthorne: D (1.34) He didn't play as much as last week due to the Panthers running heavy on three receiver sets. That's probably a good thing, because he's still not running well laterally or making any sort of impact. He struggled to shed blocks and finished with 2 tackles. This just hasn't been a good pickup so far. Hopefully his knee starts to feel better soon.

Curtis Lofton: B- (2.84) It's kind of sad watching him bust his tail in this defense. He was tied for the team lead with 10 tackles, including one for a loss. At times he did a fantastic job recognizing the play and finding the ball carrier and finishing the tackle physically. But the Panthers knew this was the only guy that is playing well on this defense right now, so they looked for him. When they got a hat on him it was usually not going to end well.

Jabari Greer: B- (2.67) Greer had one tackle and went almost the entire game untested. His coverage was good, but Cam Newton was content targeting the other two corners, who we'll get to. Still, when a cornerback as a quiet day that's usually a good sign. It's nice to have him back.

Patrick Robinson: D- (0.67) That's two straight D-'s for Patrick Robinson who is off to a horrific start to this season after being so good last year. He dropped the easiest interception he'll ever had a chance at, which is beyond frustrating. He was beaten often and victimized for an obvious pass interference call that hurt the defense. On Jonathan Stewart's score he was manhandled by Steve Smith on a block that completely blew him out of the play. Maybe the dreads need to come back? He was supposed to make us all feel fine about the Tracy Porter departure and so far he's completely fallen flat. He had 3 tackles.

Corey White: D (1.17) The rookie was very bad in this game. Whenever Spags decided to blitz, it left White one on one with someone and he was targeted and almost always beaten. Brandon LaFell ran circles around him. He did make a play here and there but the bad far outweighed the good. This guy is just not ready to be trusted at the level he's playing yet, I'm sorry. He had 6 tackles mostly due to the high volume coming his way. The Saints' cornerback play so far is frighteningly bad.

Malcolm Jenkins: C- (1.84) He tied Lofton for the team lead with 10 tackles. Almost all the tackles were well downfield after a big play. He did come up at times and become physical against the run, but broke containment on an option play which was a huge mistake as it allowed Cam Newton to run for 40 yards. His coverage was poor.

Roman Harper: C- (1.84) It's not a good sign when an opposing team runs the ball 41 times and Harper finishes with 3 tackles. He's supposedly one of the defense's best tacklers and physical around the line of scrimmage. Harper was lost out there and nowhere to be found all to often.


Garrett Hartley: A- (3.50) His onsides kick was pretty awful but otherwise he was flawless. He was perfect on 3 extra points and 2 field goals. Most importantly he blasted a 53 yarder that was right down the middle with room to spare. That's an important make for Hartley's confidence and hopefully that will bode well for the rest of the year.

Thomas Morstead: B- (3.00) His kickoffs weren't as deep as usual and he outkicked his coverage on a punt once to allow a 14 yard return. Fortunately the coverage did their job but he exposed them a couple times. His net average was only 38 yards but he did blast one punt 65 yards that ended up in the end zone. He also did a good job of pinning the Panthers inside the 5 once with an assist from Courtney Roby.

Martez Wilson: B+ (3.67) He had two tackles in coverage and both were extremely physical. I love the attitude he brings to special teams and after his punt block last week he's performing at a very high level. Hopefully that'll translate into some more action on defense.


My Defensive Player of the Game: Curtis Lofton

My Special Teams Player of the Game: Garrett Hartley