In this week’s mailbag, we go to part two of grading the New Orleans Saints position groupings. Our very own Travis Dauro gives us the season-long grade on the defensive side of the ball this week.
1. Defensive Lineman: A
To me the defensive line was the best overall group on the Saints’ team this year. The Saints finished 4th overall in the NFL in sacks with 49; Cam Jordan (12.5) and Junior Galette (12) were the biggest contributors to such number. This group of D lineman was probably the main reason that the defense had such a big turnaround and I fully expect for them to pick right back up from were they left off next season.
2. Linebackers: B
Overall the Saints’ linebackers had a pretty solid season. Leading the pack was Curtis Lofton who tallied 125 tackles (7 for a loss) and two sacks. Next came David Hawthorne with 91 tackles (7 for a loss) and 3 sacks. A year ago this group struggled with tackling and often allowed ball carriers to get into the secondary. This season, however, tackling was much cleaner and gang tackling occurred a lot. With Victor Butler coming back for 2014 and the likely scenario that the Saints add another linebacker through either free agency or the draft, the Saints linebacking corps should only continue to get better.
3. Cornerbacks: B-
The sole reason that the Saints’ cornerbacks even get the C+ rating is because of Keenan Lewis. Lewis showed the Saints that he was worth every penny that they spent on him by being a lockdown corner yet again. Along with his four interceptions he had 11 pass breakups. On the flipside, the Saints saw a lot of injuries to their corners. Patrick Robinson was injured early on in the season and Jabari Greer left with a grueling leg injury during the 49ers game. Corey White had to step into the lineup and was next to abysmal in coverage partly because he just isn’t big enough. The Saints also saw the likes of Jordan Pugh, Rod Sweeting, and Terrence Frederick play corner, each who had miniscule game time experience with the team. Unfortunately that led to a small number of interceptions by this group. This is definitely a position that the Saints have to upgrade this offseason.
4. Safeties: B-
Once again a position group can thank a player for their inflated rating, and this time it’s rookie Kenny Vaccaro. Vaccaro saw his struggles early on in the season, but he quickly developed into one of the best players on the Saints’ defense and even one of the better safeties in the NFL. He was placed on the IR during the last week in the regular season and you could definitely tell that his presence was missed. Roman Harper missed quite a bit of time throughout the season due to injury, but he came back and played decent. Malcolm Jenkins and Rafael Bush, two of the Saints’ hard-hitters, both had quality seasons and hope to be back in 2014. The Saints’ safeties, like the corners, need to snag more interceptions next season.
If you missed the offensive position grouping grades from last week, you can read them here.