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Saints QB’s & OL Mid-Season Grades

Courtesy—Danny Cox/New Orleans Sports Examiner

The New Orleans Saints have made it to their bye week after a 34-3 victory over the Carolina Panthers this past Sunday. Going into the bye, the Saints sit in second place in the NFC South with an overall record of 6-3 and looking good…finally.

Since there is some time for the team to rest and for injuries to heal up a bit before returning to the field against Seattle on November 21, I figured it was time we take a look at just how the different positions have performed so far this season. Each article is going to break down an area or two of the team and merely grade them up through week nine with the victory over Carolina.

Quarterback

Drew Brees has taken virtually every single snap this season which is common for the Saints unless there were to be some type of injury. Chase Daniel saw a little action against Carolina, but only in garbage time. To say that Brees is having an “off season” may not be an assessment that is too far off. Now before I’m strung up and quartered, let me explain.

Brees is a master of precision and one of the few elite quarterbacks in the entire NFL. He has led this team to a 6-3 record and is finally getting his offense going, but this has not been one of his better years. He leads the league in passing touchdowns with 18, but he also leads the league in interceptions with 12. That’s not the best ratio when you see that Brees throws one interception to every one and a half touchdowns. There needs to be a bit more of a cushion there.

Maybe it was the Super Bowl hangover or perhaps just a bad case of nerves making sure this team got back on track, but Brees has made some uncharacteristically bad decision-making this season. All you need to do is go back and watch the entire Cleveland game to notice that. Or even just look at the lone pick he threw against the Panthers in week nine. A fumbled snap and Brees hurried the pass, throwing it ahead of Robert Meachem only to see it bounce off his forearm and into the hands of a defender. Very “un-Brees like.”

Still, he is the leader of this team and has them in great contention for a playoff birth or even another NFC South crown. Brees has already thrown for 2,587 yards, is completing just about 70% of his passes, and has an overall rating of 91.7. While those number aren’t staggering, they are incredibly impressive and will likely be improved upon once the break is over and a few big targets return to the line-up (coughReggieBushcough).

Quarterback Grade: B-

Offensive Line

A slight change here and there was made to the line this year and they continue to be one of the premiere offensive groups in the league, but it’s also obvious that there is something a slight bit off with them. Jammal Brown is now in Washington and Jermon Bushrod has taken his place, but that is not too much of a big change considering Bushrod filled in for injured former Saint all of last year.

Other then that, this grouping of Jonathan Goodwin, Carl Nicks, Jahri Evans, Jonathan Stinchcomb, and Bushrod are intact from last year and know each other very well. Why then have they already given up 14 sacks through only nine games? Last year, Brees went down only 20 times throughout the entire season and only 13 times in 2008. While they’re only on pace to give up 20 sacks for 2010; things still just seem to be less stellar then usual.

Maybe a bit a of it can be contributed to Brees’ semi-lackluster performance this year as he has stood in the pocket sometimes a bit too long, but overall it may be a mutual issue.

With that though, we can’t help but look at how incredibly down the rushing game for the Saints is this season. A big part of that contends on the offensive line being able to block for the running backs as well as open holes for them to run through. Beside the victory over Tampa Bay and this past weekend’s win over Carolina, the running game has been almost invisible. Look at the Pittsburgh game when the Saints had only 30 total yards rushing. That’s ridiculous.

Again, some blame can be placed on the long-term injuries that Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush have been suffering through, but there are three very capable backs in Chris Ivory, LaDell Betts, and Julius Jones who just can’t seem to find much room. Maybe things are starting to turn around now and this bye week break will do them some good because there is just way too much talent in that front five to be under performing like they are.

Offensive Line: C

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