In this week’s Saints mailbag, we take a look at the offense, grading them by position grouping. It was a nice season for New Orleans overall, but when you drill down, there is still plenty of room for growth and improvement for 2014.
1. Quarterback: A-
Let me start off by saying that Drew Brees had another wonderful season to add to his Hall of Fame career. This included a 104.7 passer rating, 5,162 passing yards, 39 touchdown passes, and a 68.6 completion percentage; all of these are nothing to shake a stick at. However, he did have some key flaws. His arm strength didn’t seem to be at its best (especially on the road), he often took too long to get the ball out of his hands, and he threw some momentum killing interceptions. Some of these were bonehead mistakes that resulted from trying to force the ball to Jimmy Graham, while others were due to his lack of size to see a lurking defender.
2. Running Backs: B
The reason that the Saints’ running backs get a higher grade than you would think comes from two things: their monumental roles in the passing game and the fact that they really stepped up towards the end of the season. Unlike any other team, the Saints use their backs as receivers. In fact, two of the teams’ top five receiving yards numbers came from Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas respectively. On the ground, Pierre Thomas was leading the way with 549 yards before he got injured and missed both playoff games. From there, Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson took the helm and performed very well. Ingram ran for 146 yards (5.2 yards per clip) and a touchdown in those two games and Robinson ran for 102 yards (4.9 yards per carry) and a touchdown.
3. Receivers: A-
Jimmy Graham might as well have been called a receiver last season because of the frequency in which he lined up in the slot or split out wide, therefore this group will subsequently get an inflated grade. While fighting Plantar Fascia for much of the season, Graham caught 86 passes for 1,215 yards and 16 touchdowns, which is extremely impressive. The Saints’ traditional receivers (Colston, Stills, Moore, Meachem, and Toon) combined for 164 catches, 2,433 yards, and 14 touchdowns. I would’ve liked to seen the receivers more involved throughout the season because it quickly became apparent that the Saints’ offense ran through Jimmy Graham.
4. Offensive Line: C+
For much of the season the Saints’ offensive line lacked the push that it needed to create a pocket for Drew Brees and running lanes for the running backs. In result, Drew was sacked a career high 37 times and the backs were often stuffed at the line. While the interior men of the line were solid, the tackle positions (especially the left tackle) were not very good. Rookie Terron Armstead took over the starting left tackle
position after the loss to the Rams and showed us some promise, but the right tackle position is still in question.
Which player needs to step up next season if the Saints are going to take the next step?
One player that needs to step up for the Saints next season is running back Khiry Robinson. After coming to the Saints as an undrafted free agent, Robinson quickly gained the coaching staff’s trust by having some impressive outings on his minimal playing time. His playing time increased as the season went on and he was even compared to Hall of Fame running back Curtis Martin by the great Bill Parcells. Pending the contracts of Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram, Khiry could be carrying the load for the 2014 season.
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