27 December 2006

2006 New Orleans Saints: The Final Grades Are in

QUARTERBACK (Bye Week A-): Drew Brees is a legitimate MVP candidate. I have him second on my personal list behind Tomlinson. He’s had the best quarterback season in Saints history. Outside of his two bad performances (Baltimore and Cincinnati), he’s been as close to perfect as possible. GRADE: A

RUNNING BACK (Bye Week B): With the exception of the Washington game, the running backs have improved every week. Deuce is still solid, and Reggie Bush keeps getting better. The team’s 4 backs (McAllister, Bush, Karney, Stecker) will account for around 2,800 yards of offense. That includes a 1,000 yard rushing season from McAllister, a 600-yard rushing season from Bush (if he plays Sunday),100-plus combined receptions, 1,000-plus combined receiving yards, and 20 touchdowns (don’t forget the 3 from Karney). GRADE: A-

WIDE RECEIVER (Bye Week B): The Saints have played most of the 2nd half of the season without Joe Horn, and Marques Colston has been out too. Henderson and Copper are adequate replacements, but they’re inconsistent to say the least. But still, they’ve come up with as many big plays as big drops. And Marques Colston should be going to the Pro Bowl. GRADE: B

TIGHT END (Bye Week C-): After Ernie Conwell went down, it even got worse. Mark Campbell is adequate but can’t stay healthy. Billy Miller is, in a word, awful. How he had a big season with the Texans a few years ago is beyond me. GRADE: D

OFFENSIVE LINE (Bye Week B): Like the running game. Take out the Washington game, and they keep on getting better. Jammal Brown is a Pro Bowler. Jeff Faine should have been a Pro Bowler in my opinion. Jahri Evans is one of the top 3 rookie offensive linemen in the NFL. Even Jon Stinchcomb, an unmitigated bust until 2006, had a decent season—further proof that Jim Haslett didn’t have a clue. GRADE: B+


DEFENSIVE LINE (Bye Week B): Will Smith is a deserving Pro Bowler. Hollis Thomas was having a Pro Bowl season until his steroid suspension. Brian Young had his best season as a Saint, and Charles Grant was slightly disappointing (but still solid). The line could use a more consistent second pass rusher, and the run defense has been soft up the middle since Hollis Thomas’s suspension. GRADE: B (C+ without Thomas)

LINEBACKERS (Bye Week B+): They still exceed my expectations. Fujita and Shanle have done a very good job on the outside. Not Pro Bowl good, but pretty good. Mark Simoneau is the weakest of the three. He should take some blame for the soft run defense up the middle, but he’s miles ahead of anything the Saints would have put on the field before they got him. GRADE: B

SECONDARY (Bye Week B-): I’m raising their grade. They stunk up the joint against Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. Fred Thomas gives up an average of one long touchdown a week lately. But since Cincinnati, the secondary has been outstanding in the next five games. They’ve shut down some reputable quarterbacks, including Eli Manning, Michael Vick and Tony Romo. Stoutmire and Bellamy have done well filling in for Roman Harper, and Mike McKenzie and Josh Bullocks have put in good seasons. Jason Craft even had a key interception against Dallas. GRADE: B


KICKER (Bye Week A): John Carney had a good season with field goals. They haven’t really need them, though, in the second half of the season. The Saints score touchdowns so often that he hasn’t had an important kick since the Eagles game. You have to drop him though because his kickoffs became so bad that they had to sign Billy Cundiff to handle the duties. GRADE: B+

PUNTER (Bye Week B): I’m dropping him too, but I’m satisfied with his performance—especially considering that nothing was expected of him this year. He’s a middle of the pack punter statistically, which means he gets a middle of the pack grade. GRADE: C

RETURNERS (Bye Week B): Nothing special here either. Bush’s punt return vs. Tampa is still the only highlight of the season. Surprisingly, the return game didn’t improve dramatically with the Beerman’s return. But there haven’t been any crucial mistakes. Bush can make you crazy when he starts running backwards and sideways on punts, but there haven’t been any muffs or fumbles. GRADE: C+

COVERAGE AND BLOCKING: It was better in the first half of the season. They had three bad performances in the second half: the field position in the Steelers game (which can be blamed in part on Carney too), the blown on-side kick in the San Francisco game, and the blocked extra point in the Cincinnati game. But again, they gave no big plays all year. You never really noticed the special teams coverage this year. I guarantee you would have noticed if they were bad. GRADE: B


COACHING: Sean Payton deserves to be coach of the year. He’s taken a 3-13 team to a first round bye. I would consider Payton “outcoached” twice this year (Baltimore and Washington). But he flat-out humiliated his former employers (Dallas and the Giants). He owned Jim Mora, who is hardly proving to be a brain surgeon. The Washington game was the only game where his coaching may have cost a victory (Drew Brees deserves equal blame for the Baltimore and Cincinnati blowouts). There are so many times he’s made questionable decisions (such as going for it on 4th and goal vs. the Giants, and the on-side kick vs. Dallas), but they always seem to work out for him. And speaking of 4th down conversions--how many have they made this year? The only big one he missed was the last offensive play of the Washington game. I’ve only verbally disagreed with two personnel decisions (Terrance Copper starting and playing over Devery Henderson, and Fred Thomas playing injured). But overall, he’s done an excellent job. There is accountability for the first time in years, and there’s no doubt who runs the team (and it’s not the players—like during the Jim Haslett years).




At December 28, 2006 10:07 AM, Blogger Roux said...

It's just amazing.

I do think that the dropped pass by Henderson cost us the Redskins game. If we get that score we win. Of course he made some big plays in other games.

It's going to be an exciting month in Nola. Last game, Sugar bowl and then the playoffs. Wow! Who would have thought this would happen.

At December 28, 2006 10:53 AM, Blogger jeffrey said...

I'm worried about the dropped passes too. It looks like Devery is slumping at the wrong time.

Also, Deuce is, in my opinion, still the best all-around offensive player on the team. I wonder if it will be as easy to accommodate both him and Bush next year in the backfield.

Finally, sixteen games later the defense still looks like it's being done with smoke and mirrors. Shanle can't tackle. Simoneau is slow. Thomas is having his worst season ever. I'm even disappointed in Josh Bullocks. It appears at times that he's not quite as fast as one would like. I wonder if Roman Harper will be permanently set back by his injury.

At December 28, 2006 4:48 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

I think everyone is getting all caught up in the excitement and way too soft on the secondary. Even with Harper back for a full season, the corner situation will need adjustments.

At December 28, 2006 8:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're an easy teacher with the grades.

Even with faith, I don't know if I'd grade our guys out so high.

Especially at the WR, TE, DB, and defensive line position...


At December 29, 2006 8:40 AM, Blogger Commish said...

I understand and agree with the apprehension about the defensive grades, especially the secondary. But you have to grade based on what you see, even if it appears to be smoke and mirrors. With the secondary, Fred Thomas has been pitiful. But since the Pittsburgh/Cincinnati disasters, teams are completing less than half their passes on them. Even if the Giants caught half their drops, Eli would have been lucky to reach 50 percent too.

And I can't figure out how they're doing it with this personnel either

At January 01, 2007 1:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy New Year to the entire staff at Third Battle.

At January 02, 2007 12:07 PM, Blogger Mr. Clio said...

Happy New Year to 3rd Battle!

Now where the damn Saints analysis, Mr. Fitch. Wake up! I'll send you a king cake if you post it by Thursday.


Post a Comment

<< Home