4 standout players from the New Orleans Saints preseason opener

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Everyone knows about the highlights from the New Orleans Saints’ preseason game against the St. Louis Rams.  Brandin Cooks’ 25-yard touchdown reception is already making the rounds of the Internet and getting fantasy football enthusiasts excited.  Mark Ingram’s 8-carry, 83-yard performance has been the talk of the town – even without his two 22-yard runs (one of which went through several Rams defenders to score a touchdown), Ingram averaged 6.5 yards per rushing attempt.  But this article isn’t about the players that racked up the stats and made it onto the Saints’ weekly three minutes of airtime on SportsCenter.  This is about the players who stood out to me after watching the game again with a critical eye, and who were picked up on by the analysts at Pro Football Focus.  Bookmark this Saints depth chart at OurLads.com, because you’ll probably need it (and it’s a great resource anyway).


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Photo credit:  Michael DeMocker – NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune.

Senio Kelemete, Offensive Guard # 65

Before the game I recognized several players I would be keeping an eye on, including Offensive Guard/Center Senio Kelemete.  The third-year lineman was a 2012 Fifth Round NFL Draft selection by the Arizona Cardinals out of the University of Washington but was released and signed to the Saints’ practice squad last September.  Kelemete has spent the 2014 training camp backing up Pro Bowlers Jahri Evans and Ben Grubbs, and started in Grubbs’ place Friday night at Left Guard.  This was Kelemete’s chance to show that he deserved a spot on the Saints’ roster and could handle NFL-caliber defensive linemen, some of the best of which were playing in St. Louis.

Kelemete did not disappoint.  He posted a Pro Football Focus grade of +1.8, the third-best of all Saints offensive players, and was on the field for the fourth-most plays of all offensive players (playing 40 of a possible 64).  Though he did not allow any pressures on any of the Saints’ quarterbacks, Kelemete was beaten on a few plays, resulting in a PFF pass blocking grade of -1.0.

Where Kelemete was most impressive was leading the way for the Saints’ running back platoon – his PFF run blocking grade was +2.7, best on the team.  When rushing behind the gaps Kelemete was responsible for the Saints offense picked up 61 yards on only seven carries, a rate of 8.71 yards per attempt.  That’s very impressive by itself, but doesn’t tell the whole story.

This video shows how Mark Ingram’s 22-yard touchdown-scoring run.  The image below shows how Kelemete was instrumental in making it possible.

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One way we can find a general idea of how well linemen are run blocking with stats is to take the total yards gained and subtract the yards gained after contact with a defender from it.  For Kelemete, this would mean subtracting 44 yards from his total 61 yards, making 17 yards gained before contact with a defender.  That makes a yards per rush attempt rate of 2.43, which does not sound outstanding until you realize it would rank Kelemete 9th-best of all 2013 starting Guards (Saints starters Jahri Evans (16th) and Ben Grubbs (33rd) achieved yards before contact per carry rates of 2.30 and 1.89, respectively).  Would Kelemete get that kind of production on a weekly basis in the NFL regular season?  It isn’t likely, but it bodes very well for him that he was able to do it against all three layers of the Rams’ depth chart throughout the game.

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