To coincide with my piece from yesterday on the defensive performances, here is some insight to individual performances on the offensive side of the ball. A veteran RB looks great, the battle for RB and WR spots is getting even better, and there were some surprising performances along the offensive line.
First and foremost, Pierre Thomas looked great. While gaining 19 yards on four carries for an average of 4.75 YPC, Thomas's longest run was 9 yards, meaning his numbers weren't skewed by one long run like Mark Ingram's were. Consistency is key here. Obviously, Thomas's best play was on his reception when he shed a tackler, juked a defender out of his shoes and then showed more speed than I remember him having en route to the endzone.
Staying at the RB position, we have ourselves quite the battle between Travaris Cadet and Khiry Robinson for the fourth spot. Cadet accumulated 16 yards on four carries as well as 37 yards on three receptions, while Robinson managed just 11 yards on five carries and 10 yards on one reception. This is obviously not a big enough sample size to truly gauge their effectiveness as blocking has a big impact on yards gained. Cadet looks like the better player in space, but Robinson looks like the stronger runner in general, and has shown the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield like Cadet. Both Cadet and Robinson have graded out positively with PFF as receivers throughout the pre-season (+1.3 and +2.2 respectively), but there is a major discrepancy as runners and as pass blockers. Robinson runs away with the better rush grade (+1.7 to -4.4) as he has forced 10 missed tackles to Cadet's five. But Cadet easily wins in pass protection (+0.5 to -1.3). Cadet's fumbling has clearly been an issue, so tonight's game against the Dolphins is crucial for these two if they wish to secure a roster spot.
Though it's been talked about quite a bit since Sunday, Kenny Stills proved he belongs on an NFL field against the Texans. As if that sideline catch wasn't impressive enough, Stills also made Jonathan Joseph, a former all-pro CB, look like he was the rookie on his touchdown reception with a great route. As Sam Monson noted in this re-focused article, Stills also graded out positively as a blocker (+0.5) which makes his performance even more admirable.
Before the start of the pre-season I would had quickly dismissed the notion that Andy Tanner may start the season ahead of Nick Toon on the Depth Chart. I'm still not convinced that will be the case, but damn has Tanner looked good, especially against the Texans. On his first touchdown grab he showed toughness by dropping his shoulder to cross the goal line. On his second he displayed great concentration and hands to catch a well-placed but high pass. On Sunday Tanner was superior, but Toon has had his moments as well. Throughout the pre-season Tanner has reeled in six of eight targets for 92 yards and two TDs to Toon's six receptions on nine targets for 133 yards. Just like for the running backs, the Dolphin's game will be big for them.
As previously stated, there were some surprising performances along the offensive line. Ben Grubbs and Brian De La Puente both struggled, grading out at -2.1 and -1.2 respectively. Grubbs let up a hit and hurry on 19 pass protection snaps, while BDP was flawless in protection but struggled against the run. Grubbs, a proven veteran, will be fine. I'm not too worried about BDP since it's just pre-season and he was so great last year, but he has been struggling as a run blocker so far (-4.0 so far this preseason compared to +13.6 in the 2012 regular season). Much like BDP, Tim Lelito was also perfect in pass protection on 30 snaps, but also struggled against the run with a grade of -1.4.
The most pleasant surprise of the afternoon, however, was Charles Brown. There has been much speculation that he's not worthy of the Saints' starting LT job, but if Sunday's game vs the Texans is any indication, he's going to be just fine. Brown let up just one QB pressure (a hit, though) on 19 pass protection snaps, and also earned a +0.5 grade as a run blocker. Again, I know it's the pre-season, but playing well here is still much better than playing poorly here.
Some time next week I plan to put out another piece that looks at some notable players the entire pre-season.
More from Canal Street Chronicles:
- Saints vs. Dolphins Preseason: Game Time, TV Schedule, Online Streaming, Odds and More
- Saints vs. Texans Preaseason 2013: A Look at Individual Defensive Player Performances
- Saints Preseason News, 8/28/13: New Saints CB Keenan Lewis Promises To Be Ready By Season's Start
- NFL Power Rankings 2013: Saints Defense Tops NFC South
- Saints Roster Cuts 2013 Injury Report