First Half Grades (1 Viewer)

LSSpam

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First Half Grades
Rather then trying to discuss every position in complete detail (something I’m not entirely qualified to do) I’m going to grade the positions and then just discuss a few things on my mind in relation to the position.

Offensive Line – B
It’s hard to argue with only 1 sack allowed a game. Whether this is due to Brees or more so the O-Line is really inconsequential. Brees is having a career year; obviously the O-line is “good enough” in that regard.

The question that many people have is “why does it seem the O-line blocks for Deuce rather then Reggie Bush?”

This is an interesting discussion because, while yes, Reggie does fail to see the cutback lane and tries to drag runs to far outside, he also often has defenders deeper in the backfield. Really we’re talking about a 1 yard loss vs. a 2 yard gain, not the 4 yard gains Deuce gets.

The reason is, I believe, the offensive line is simply better suited for the type of runs typically called for Deuce as opposed to Reggie Bush. The overwhelming majority of Deuce’s runs seem to be, relatively speaking, the exact same thing. Zone-Slant-Left or Right. Just your basic zone blocking scheme, Deuce runs behind the line, picks his gap or cuts it back. Very simple and straightforward.

What makes Deuce so deadly in this is his patience, acceleration, and field vision. He hits the hole with authority but is always aware of his cutback lane where he picks up his long runs.

Reggie Bush runs few of these plays. He ran more at the beginning of the season, but has steadily ran less as time has gone on. And, in my mind, for good reason. It’s wasteful. Deuce will, in all likelihood, be the better runner in that regard for the rest of his career. You give Bush a few of those runs to keep teams honest, but by and large, there’s no reason to have Reggie poach on Deuce’s turf.

Where you would, theoretically, want to use Bush is more on the outside. Pitches, stretches, sweeps, that sort of thing. Reggie, ideally speaking, would be best shifting and picking his way outside. The problem, I believe, is that the offensive line simply isn’t very good at this sort of play.

Part of it may be simple practice/expertise. The Toss-Sweep is a complicated play in terms of blocking and difficult to execute. This may be a situation that will simply resolve itself over another off-season.

But part of it may also be individual skill/technique. One of the biggest problems I’ve noticed is that the Tackles seem to have trouble holding the corner vs. DE’s. The Guards sometimes have trouble getting out there on the pull as well. Jeff Faine is the only one who seems ideally suited to be pulled out of the interior linemen currently. Jahri Evans is certainly athletic enough however.

On the whole I think the net result is that, for now at least, things like screens, sweeps, stretch plays, etc, will prove difficult for the Saints, and not entirely due to Bush (though due in some part).
 
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Tight Ends and Fullbacks – C
The grade is a little unfair because of the position these positions have in the offense. It’s not as though the Tight Ends have been allowed to go 15 yards down the middle of the field (even if they could) or the Fullback given 5 carries or so a game.

A lot of people are clamoring for a tight end this off-season. The assumption (and it isn’t a bad assumption) is that the only position we’re truly lacking at is TE on offense.

The problem I have with that is, I’m not so sure if we had even Tony Gonzalez he’d get anymore then a couple of catches a game.

Early on especially we constantly had to keep the TE back to block. I believe this has, as well as everything else, helped play some part in our success. This is likely the reason Zach Hilton was released (his lack of blocking ability). However, it seems as the season has gone on and the O-line came together, they have begun releasing the TE more and more into the passing game (beginning with the Tampa game really first). Adding to this, when Conwell went down, the player we signed was Billy Miller, whose known as far more of a receiver then as a blocker.

So maybe everyone else is right, maybe by the end of the year the Offensive Line will be playing at a level that the TE will be fully integrated into the passing game as a receiver, not a blocker.
 

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One thing I've noticed is that the Saints offensive linemen seem to have narrower splits than most lines, certainly much narrower than the line did under Haslett. Look next time you have an endzone shot of team coming to the line of scrimmage.

It makes sense--the Saints offensive line coach reportedly makes it a huge point of emphasis to never allow defensive linemen to get inside pressure. The offensive lineman are supposed to hold the inside at all costs. Naturally, this pushes pressure towards the ends. Couple that with outside passes to Reggie, etc, and you have a pretty good scheme to keep your quarterback clean. Over the past weeks, and even Simeon Rice this week, the defensive ends often choose to take a wide path upfield, sometimes dropping off to look for the flare passes, screens or to defend against those immensely unsuccessful outside runs to Reggie.

Just my 2 cents.
 
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Wide Receivers – B+

Joe Horn has been fairly solid. He’s had a few inexplicable drops, but he’s also been absolutely clutch at times as well. Henderson has been great as well…when he’s on the field. Hopefully he’s out of the doghouse now. Copper was a pleasant surprise this past week, but Lance Moore and Jamal Jones have been somewhat disappointing after their preseason. Both still look extremely raw.

The big story however, is Colston. It’s important to remember, as brilliant as the Saints were for taking him, we nonetheless passed on him like everyone else for 7 rounds. Every NFL team had to see the kid’s measurables. The 6’4 height, the size, the adequate speed at 4.53. They also had to see his production, personality, and lack of serious injury red flags.

So when the entire NFL passes on him for so long, it begs the question “why?”. While all NFL teams “miss the boat” on players from time to time, the dropping the ball with Colston is particularly baffling.

The only explanation I can offer is that Colston must have looked extremely raw at Hofstra (I never saw Colston in Hofstra). The X-factors then in Colston has been how incredibly quick he has learned things, how good the coaching of him has been, and how willing Joe Horn must have been to help Colston out.

This really demonstrates what’s great about our new philosophy on players. By targeting smart players with coachable personalities, it doesn’t limit the number of “diamonds in the rough” we find. Quite the contrary, I believe it’ll increase. You could gather up all of the high measurable, “potential finds”, Haslett drafted on the second day of the draft (4th round and later), compare them to a single Payton draft only 8 games in, and have Payton’s draft win, hands down. Jahri Evans, Zach Strief, Rob Ninkovich, Marques Colston, all keepers. 2 current starters, 2 seem to be quality backups.
 

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I have to disagree a little about the TEs. I think they are doing exactly what they are asked to do. Keep the defense honest. Also, didn't we have a few key plays by our TEs the first time we played the Bucs. Key first down catches to keep critical drives alive.

I have always disliked the way the board gets down on a TE or FB because he doesnt catch a bunch of balls. There are just so many touches in a game and when you spread them out, no one will look like a stud. Heck, look at Devery. He had to earn his paycheck off only 3 touches last week.

The vast majority of a TEs job is to block well. Otherwise you would just run another receiver. There is no NFL requirement to play a TE, so why play one? So you have the dual option on every play to block or pass. A good WR can block too, but a TE should be better at it.

Furthermore, I think you have to grade the TEs just like Reggie Bush. If Reggie slides out wide and the balls not thrown to him, but he draws the safety down and gives Marques one-on-one then that makes Reggie a valuable stud. The same is true with a TE that runs an out-and-in and draws the LB inside so that Reggie can get one-on-one on a swing pass.

Making catches is such a small part of the TE game. It's why I am starting to believe that John Mackey and Mike Ditka were slightly better All-Time TEs then the amazing Kellen Winslow, Sr.

Now on the other hand if the TEs were dropping balls or whiffing on blocking assignments then you have some criticism, but so far I think they are doing great.
 

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Also just wanted to add GREAT POST so far.

And dont forget to add Roman Harper to that list of outstanding draft picks. He may be injured, but he certainly was a phenom when he was in.
 

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For the tight ends, I agree with the grade. Even by the standard of judging them by what they're asked to do--and we don't know for sure--neither the recieving nor the blocking have been stellar. And as Ice pointed out:

"The same is true with a TE that runs an out-and-in and draws the LB inside so that Reggie can get one-on-one on a swing pass."

A good tight end can also be a threat in the middle of the field that keeps a safety back. Teams have been cheating safeties up, spying Bush with a safety, even run blitzing them off the ends to shut down plays to the outside. A tight end who posed more of a threat downfield would make that impossible.
 
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Running Backs - B

Well my gosh, this position has gotten an awful lot more controversial then it was at the beginning of the year.

I guess what I’ll discuss is the concept of a “bust” in the NFL. I realize a lot of people criticizing Bush aren’t implying he’s guaranteed to be a bust. Neat. That means I’m not talking to you so a response where you at length explain how you aren’t suggesting he is a bust is completely unnecessary.

There are, actually, few true “busts” in the NFL these days (QBs excepted). Scouting has become so large, organized, and effective, teams rarely just completely miss the mark on a player.

“Busts” typically come about in 3 ways.

1 – Not physically talented enough. This is just rare in today’s NFL. Teams typically have a very good grasp on the talent levels of the first round players. It DOES still happen. Mike Williams I believe is the next true blue “talent bust”. In my mind, he just completely lacks the necessary “quickness” to be a NFL WR.

2 – Injuries. This is what typically creates busts these days. Courtney Brown, Donte Stallworth, Charles Rogers, Kellen Winslow until this year, etc. You can’t always predict which players will suddenly become “injury prone”. That’s why Deuce fell to us (he had a number of college injuries) and may cause Adrian Peterson to drop, and yet Deuce has been fairly durable for an RB.

3 – Personality. These are the busts we know and love. Ryan Leaf embodies it, but Jonathon Sullivan also falls here (unmotivated). This is the lazy, the self-destructive.

Now, there are a lot of players who don’t necessarily meet expectations but nonetheless become solid starters. Dewayne Robertson, Jordan Gross, Leonard Davis, etc. I have a hard time calling these guys “busts” because they are still solid NFL contributors.

In this regard I look at Reggie Bush and see that
1) He is very talented
2) He has not been seriously injured
3) He has a positive team-first attitude and is working hard
This suggest to me that Bush will not be a bust. We didn’t miss the boat on him. He is what he is. That he’s struggled to adjust and is taking longer then hoped is, unfortunate, but does not change anything fundamental about him.

Bush’s development might be a problem if we were 4-4 or 3-5 and struggling to put together a winning season. There would be pressure on Bush to perform miracles and get us wins. But the reality is, in our current situation, we can afford to be patient.
 
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Quarterback – A++

++++. A few more +’s. It’s not really possible for there to be enough.

Drew Brees is not the best quarterback in the NFL. He sure as heck isn’t the most complete. But Drew Brees is beyond perfect for the New Orleans Saints. He brings things to this team no other QB in the NFL could have brought here. I cannot stress this enough. Peyton Manning would not have the success Brees is having overall I truly believe this. I know I’ll get disagreement on this point, and arguing it would take up at least as much as I’ve written overall so far plus 2 or 3 times more, so I’ll focus on one aspect that’s really changed how I view football.

Conventional wisdom says that, to win in the playoffs, you must have a strong running game. I was a huge subscriber to this belief, and was a fan of the “run first, play-action second” type offense.

Brees has completely turned that on my head. A number of times people have questioned Payton’s reliance on the passing game (for good reason, see above conventional wisdom). As I’ve examined the complaints though, I’ve really had my eyes opened.

You run the ball for two primary reasons. It’s safe, and it’s consistent. Running the ball always keeps the clock running, even if you get stopped behind the line. It usually guarantees a few yards though, setting up safer downs and distance. The “negative” plays of a RB (fumble, stop for loss) are fewer and farther in between then the “negative’ plays for a QB. If you have a lead, running the ball effectively all but ensures victory.

What’s been remarkable about Brees and the Payton offense is that Brees functions literally like an effective running game. On the 8:30 drive to close the Eagles game, Brees was a ridiculous 8 of 8. Because Brees is so incredibly effective in the short passing game, it works almost like a running game. Brees is incredibly accurate, meaning very few incompletions to stop the clock. Brees has such a quick trigger he avoids sacks (which are drive killers). And he has such phenomenal decision making that he avoids interceptions (which are drive and field position killers).

Drew Brees is as good as Larry Johnson in closing a game out.
 

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Also here is what I understand the Pre-draft knocks were on Colston:
- Catches with his body
- Does not get a burst off the line
- Has trouble with LB jams
- Not a good Blocker
- Best suited to convert to TE

Although the draft sites CYAed themselves as usual and listed his size strength and great catching skills as strengths. Furthermore several of the pre-draft scouting sites projected him to go around 200th.

Colston's Pre-Draft rankings:
NFL Draft Countdown - 185
Great Blue - 206
(most of the rest of the sites have already deleted their 2006 mocks, I guess they all had Bush as a Texan)

Also since its worth repeating: Keep going LS great post!!!!!
 
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For the tight ends, I agree with the grade. Even by the standard of judging them by what they're asked to do--and we don't know for sure--neither the recieving nor the blocking have been stellar. And as Ice pointed out:

"The same is true with a TE that runs an out-and-in and draws the LB inside so that Reggie can get one-on-one on a swing pass."

A good tight end can also be a threat in the middle of the field that keeps a safety back. Teams have been cheating safeties up, spying Bush with a safety, even run blitzing them off the ends to shut down plays to the outside. A tight end who posed more of a threat downfield would make that impossible.
Conwell lowered the grade. He's been a little above average in blocking, but not particularly great, has had at least 2 drops in a few oppertunities, and was just awful in terms of picking up any yards after the catch. I'm not saying I hate Conwell or dislike him, etc, it's just he's essentially "adquate" for what he was asked to do, and that means a C to me.

I think Campbell/Miller will be a better combination, so maybe the grade will raise to a B in the second half of the season. Billy Miller, in one catch, really demonstrated what an improved TE would mean. I don't ever expect Tony Gonzalez or Antonio Gates numbers for the TE in our offense, but the ability to bail the QB out with a great catch, as Campbell has done, and as Miller did, is what is needed. Conwell couldn't provide it. Hence the C.
 

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I totally agree, to the letter.

I think that pass to Henderson demonstrates how teams have been sacrificing the deep middle of the field against the Saints. It should be a tight ends dream.
 

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It's a great thread. Looking forward to it. Maybe you should do the defense on another thread so it doesn't get chopped up with other posts.
 
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It's a great thread. Looking forward to it. Maybe you should do the defense on another thread so it doesn't get chopped up with other posts.
Oh I don't suppose i'll get to many more responses then i've already got. It's awfully long stuff for a message board :mwink: I'm just doing it for the heck of it and i'm kind of tired of it for now. I want to do an offseason preview as well but i'll probably be to lazy for that.
 

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